SOUTH WILLIAMSON, Ky. - The Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce elected new officers and four new board members at its monthly meeting hosted by Tug Valley ARH Medical Center on Thursday afternoon.

Chris Dotson, who is an individual member and local civic leader, was voted in as president, while Tim Hatfield, CEO of ARH, was voted in as vice president. Charley McCoy of the First National Bank of Williamson was retained as the treasurer.

The four new board members, who will serve three-year terms, are local photographer Randall Sanger, Dr. Steve Wilson, a local optometrist, Shelby Porter, marketing director at Williamson Memorial Hospital, and Leigh Ann Ray, a business member who operates the Tug Valley Inn and also represents the Mingo County Commission.

Hatfield, longtime CEO of the local ARH facilities, updated the members on some important changes and additions to that healthcare operation.

Hatfield said ARH would soon get a new MRI and the project cost would be $2 million. He also said that ARH is getting a new state-of-the-art computer system.

ARH is starting a new diabetic clinic as well. Hatfield said that is one of the greatest needs in the region. Appalachia has a high rate of diabetes and obesity.

The CEO said ARH also will bring in a new endocrinologist. Though many people can successfully control their diabetes with their general practitioner's help, there are several cases in which it might be best to see an endocrinologist.

Hatfield said ARH is starting a new program for mothers and newborns who are addicted to drugs, especially opioids. Hatfield said many babies are born already addicted because their pregnant mothers are hooked on drugs. He said this is a program that is much needed in the region.

ARH in South Williamson is also working toward getting full cancer accreditation. Dr. Walid Baz is a certified oncologist who has been working in the Tug Valley area for several years now.

The ARH chain is purchasing Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg. This deal will be finalized on Aug.1.

The local ARH facilities, which are located in Pike County, Kentucky, will be able to start taking W.Va. PEIA insurance starting July 1, Hatfield added. He said this is good news for local W.Va. residents who see ARH physicians and use those facilities.

Wes Wilson, director of the Chamber of Commerce, announced that the annual Coal Dust Run, which is a big fundraiser for the chamber, will be held Saturday, Sept. 14.

Wilson also announced that the Chamber's Spotlight Business of the Month is Sports Outfitters, which is located at Alleys Branch, just north of Williamson. Sport Outfitters is an ATV friendly, full service outdoor outfitter with 8 secluded 2-bedroom rental cabins. Sport Outfitters will offer canoe and kayak rentals, hunting and fishing excursions, horseback riding, walking and hiking trails and 3-D archery.

Wilson also boasted about the success of the recent 20th annual Hatfield-McCoy Marathon. He said there were runners from nearly 40 states and from as far away as Australia. Almost 1,100 runners took part in either the marathon, half-marathons or 5-K runs.

The Chamber director also said that more and more ATV tourists are coming to his office located at the historic Coal House to purchase trail passes.

Wilson said tourism in the Tug Valley area is on the upswing and is helping the local economy.

Kyle Lovern is editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at 304-236-3526 or via e-mail at klovern@HDMediaLLC.com.

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