Randal Johnson, Executive Director
Council of the Southern Mountains
The Council of the Southern Mountains, a community action agency established in 1964, is celebrating its fiftieth year of helping low-income individuals and families, disabled people and senior citizens achieve economic and social self-sufficiency in southern West Virginia, especially McDowell County. The “War on Poverty” initiative by President Lyndon Johnson was the impetus for the birth of the organization.
The Council is a 501 c (3) nonprofit corporation governed by a volunteer tripartite Board of Directors. The Board is composed of individual from three areas: 1) low-income and minority, 2) elected officials and 3) community representatives. The agency serves people in the southern part of West Virginia with emphasis on McDowell County, an economically distressed area experiencing high unemployment and social disparities.
The Council of Southern Mountains currently offers Title XIX MR/DD Waiver services and Aged and Disabled Waiver services to McDowell and Mercer counties as funded by Medicaid. These services includes transportation and self-help training for disabled citizens as well as in-home assistance. AsMcDowellCountyhas the highest percentage of senior citizens and people with disabilities, these programs are vital to meet their needs. The Aged and Disabled Program especially is aimed at keeping people in their homes and avoiding expensive nursing home placements.
The Youth Exposure Series which provides cultural experiences for economically distressed adolescent so they will be nearer to a level “playing field” with their school peers. Also, the agency operates the Title XIX Waiver Program, Right From The Start and Aged and Disabled Waiver Program for the high percentage of disabled and seniors in this area.
In order to meet the physical and medical needs of areas residents, CSM opened Fitness and Wellness Center in December of 2013. The WV State Department of Health and Human Resources has released data showing McDowell County was likely the least healthy county in West Virginia. The county ranks first in the percentage of residents with diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma, obesity, and lack of health insurance. Medicare and Medicaid resources are the sole insurance for many residents and therefore are absolutely necessary and vital to citizens’ quality of life. The adult obesity rate forMcDowellCountyis 30.4%. The percentage of adults without health insurance is 35.2%. A modern, state-of-the-art fitness/wellness center is a start in combating these statistics. Finally, the agency has built two new homes for income eligible individuals in the county that are modern and economically sustainable.
The agency’s Mission Statement, which has stood for half a century, is: “The Council of the Southern Mountains strives to provide quality services and opportunities to help people achieve the dignity of self sufficiency. As a result, the Council of Southern Mountains provides quality programs and makes a difference in the County. To meet the needs of the changing society and the population shift, the agency continues to strive to fill in the gaps to meet the needs ofMcDowellCountycitizens through direct services and referrals to other agencies. The agency motto of: “Bringing Opportunities Within Reach” has never been more appropriate as multiple factors are negatively affecting our community. The Council staff and Board will forever strive to positive outcomes to those seeking the dignity of self-sufficiency.
The following quotation by Edwin Markham has guided the agency and staff and it represents that everyone involved with the Council that the mission of the organization will live far into the future by helping others. The quotation is:
There is a destiny that makes us all brothers
As none go this way alone.
For all that we place into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
For further information about the Council of the Southern Mountains, call the Welch office at 304-436-6800 or the Bluefield office at 304-327-5305.