By Mary Alice Murphy
Grant County Community Health Council Coordinator Chris DeBolt presented the first county report at the Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 work session.
"I am working closely with the New Mexico Association of Health Councils," DeBolt said. "I will come before you and ask for a letter of support to get more state funding for health councils statewide."
She said she is orienting five new council members, who will sit at the September quarterly meeting. "I will also be presenting to you a new representative for the interpersonal violence sector, Joanie Connors, and we have another sector representative in the works, which would give us a complete council."
DeBolt and members of the council are working on the priorities. In the community health and safety priority, the focus is on disabilities, "and we are partnering with the disabilities group. In interpersonal violence, we are focusing on bullying, not only in the schools, but also bullying of adults. We are looking at policy work in the schools. I want to introduce Razana Robinson-Thomas, coordinator of the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, working on the substance abuse priority."
"We just completed action on one of the 10 environmental strategies we have developed," Thomas said. "You may have heard of 101 Things for Youth to do in Grant County. It is a community readiness strategy, raising awareness of the issue. We had 50 businesses participating and 51 self-initiated activities in the effort for youths this summer. Even the transportation was free, because a youth carrying the card could use Corre Caminos. Last Friday, we held the final event—Tikis and Tacos—at Bataan Memorial Park. We had more than 700 people participate. We intend on doing the program again next year."
Gila Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Brian Cunningham gave an update on the hospital. "At the end of fiscal year 2013, we had a negative $9 million. At the end of fiscal year 2014, we had a negative $2.4 million. We are doing a comprehensive audit, which may lower the 2013 negative balance maybe to closer to $1 million."
"We have received the state monies, replacing the sole community provider funding, retroactively for the calendar year, more than $5 million," he said.
The $6.6 million turnaround, he explained came from reductions in salaries, benefits, supplies and renegotiations in rates. "It comes mostly from operational efficiencies."
Cunningham said the days in cash at the end of FY 2013 were 109, and at the end of FY 2014, 128 days of cash.
"We also drove down the daily spend from $191,000 to $174,000 at the end of fiscal year 2014," he continued.
"From an operational standpoint, we've been short one general surgeon, but we are in the process of hiring another one," Cunningham said. "Dr. David Friedman has been serving as a locum tenens and will join us October 1, as a Gila Regional employee."
The hospital is working on a new contract for emergency room services with Innova out of Colorado. "We are starting the transition from EmCare to Innova, which should be complete January 1," Cunningham said. "We are also working on a new contract for air ambulance service. Native Air's contract was up. We have analyzed three companies. Native Air and Tri-State were our top picks. We looked at service and at cost. There is no exchange of money to the hospital for the service, but there is a cost to the community. The major complaints we have heard from the community are that the costs are high. Native Air is the largest in the country, so they have to pay their shareholders. Tri-State would be half the cost to the patient. One of the things we looked at was the cost to the community. We have two months left with Native Air, and we are continuing to evaluate Tri-State. We are awaiting the reasons for the unfortunate, tragic Tri-State air ambulance crash."
"Our last transition will be the hospice and home health services," Cunningham continued. "We continue to talk with and clarify services with other providers. We had approximately 50 home health clients at the beginning of the transition. We now have half that number. Horizon Home Health and Horizon Hospice continue to gear up, and we continue to work with those entities, which want to fill a void, also in Hidalgo and Catron counties.
"The patients and caregivers will still be cared for," he said. "Caregivers may take in different jobs at Gila Regional or have been hired by other providers."
Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said he has received questions about whether the hospital has any "turn-aways."
"We never turn anyone away from the emergency room," Cunningham said. "Currently, we are working on a charity program. It's a complicated formula targeting those who are not on Medicaid and those who cannot afford insurance on the exchanges. It's to help those who fall in the crack. We are developing a conservative model for the policy for the first year to help us adjust. Some refuse to enroll in Medicaid, and we can help them with an application."
Commissioner Ron Hall said the cost of the Native Air air-ambulance service is "so ridiculous. It's $45,000 to Albuquerque. I really question the cost. How can they justify it? It literally destroys people, who are emptying their savings and selling property. And the company is not nice about it."
Cunningham said it's their corporate policy. "The employees who fly in the helicopters or planes are excellent. There is a lift-off rate and then it's by the mile. We want to maintain the quality of service."
Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked how many people the hospital flies out in a year.
"We're doing an analysis," Cunningham replied. "We'll bring it to the community. The main reasons to fly out people are cardiac, trauma and a few others. We will have the numbers for the board meeting next week and for you next month."
Detention Center Administrator Mike Carillo said he has one vacancy and two applicants for the position. "In the July 28 incident, we had eight obstructive inmates, but we quickly brought order, and no one was injured. I commended and am proud of my officers. I also wrote a letter our officers and to the agencies thanking them for their quick help."
He said officer training continues with Luna County Detention trainers. "All the training you commissioners have allowed has paid off."
The average daily number of inmates since the last County Commission meeting has been 71. "As of yesterday, we had 93 booked in, due to failure to appear and adult probation violations. The average length of stay is 7.58 days."
"Good job with handling the situation," Ramos commended Carillo and the officers.
"How is the medical service working out?" Hall asked.
"We have new personnel and are getting them acquainted with the facility, but it is saving money," Carillo replied. "We are using a program with Western (New Mexico University) using psychology interns. It is working well preparing the inmates for release. We are doing life skills and finding jobs for them. We are also working with Western for research."
Hall asked if the detention center is tracking for substance abuse.
"We have tracked a few who are participating in the program and are being successful," Carillo replied. "The problem is addiction. If they don't have resources or if the inmates don't have insurance, they go back to the same behavior and end up back in jail."
Hall noted that Carillo is working with the group planning a continuum of care from detox through treatment.
"We have to do something different," Carillo agreed.
"Can you pinpoint the reason for the disturbance?" Kasten asked.
"Yes," Carillo said. "We had put some in confinement and moved some around and they didn't appreciate it, so others vocalized it."
Interim County Manager Abigail Robinson commented that it was a series of bad behaviors.
Road Superintendent Earl Moore said his department has been doing a lot of clean up after rains. "We hope to be done with the Santa Rita subdivision roads by the end of the week. We are helping Silver City with chip sealing. I thank Gilbert Grijalva for cleaning up Mimbres after a three-inch rain in a half hour."
Randy Villa, general services officer, said Public Works Director Justin Reese was working at the airport. "We put new tires on the airport fire truck. Public Works is also doing weed control at Bataan Park. We have received bids for satellite restrooms at the park. At the shooting range, within the next couple of weeks, we will finish the trap building, thanks to help from Freeport McMoRan. The Conference Center is booked with ongoing usage. The DWI Program is starting in the schools. The Association of Counties is presenting adult compliance courses from customer service through compliance."
He said the Tyrone Volunteer Fire Department's addition is going up on schedule. "I congratulate the new Silver City Fire Department Chief Tim Heidrick."
Hall asked about the airport fuel situation.
"The request for proposal is going out, but we still have no fuel," Villa said. "I plan to go to Ruidoso for the aviation affiliate meeting of the Municipal League."
Robinson said Jacob Zamora had put together an RFP for fuel and trucks, which should be going out soon.
"The av (aviation) gas portion is easy," Kasten said. "It's the jet fuel and the trucks we have to get someone to provide."
"We know it's an issue and we're working on it," Villa said.
County Planner Anthony Gutierrez said the final approval had been received on the North Hurley wastewater system. "We will have a ribbon cutting ceremony on August 21 at 1 p.m. at the lift station."
He said the North Hurley Colonias funding has right-of-way issues. "I am doing an additional scope of work to get drainage done. I've been busy keeping the community taken care of with mapper Violet Villegas having retired. She is irreplaceable. We want to combine the deed search portion with Dori's job. (Ordinance Officer Dolores Dominguez also retired). We want to incorporate additional GIS expertise and do some corrections to maps. It will be a technical position, and we will do a lot of cross-training."
Gutierrez reminded commissioners that the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan is due in September. "I will bring the resolution and the ICIP to the next Commission meeting. I need input from the commissioners for the project priority. We especially need the top three for legislative capital outlay. The Department of Finance and Administration will require it. We need to prepare ourselves, and we are trying to get people hired."
Hall asked about the building at the fairgrounds. "I'm thinking it's not going to be completed by fair time. I will tell the contractor that there can be no construction during fair time."
Sheriff Raul Villanueva reminded the public that with school starting, he would have deputies out on the bus routes. "We will be sending deputies to training. I was able to hire three, two of whom are certified and one we'll need to send to the academy."
He addressed the missing person in Mimbres, Maria Grijalva. "Weather has been a factor. I have sent detectives out there again today. They are walking the area. If anyone has any information, please contact us."
Assessor Mary Guthrie said the Assessor's Office is running smoothly. "We worked closely with Violet, so come to our office. We can answer the public's questions."
Robinson said she attended the tally of the Corre Caminos union vote and it did pass to unionize the drivers. "That will be another little bargaining unit."
Ramos said the eco-watershed committee is getting more participation with the Forest Service taking part and Western participating for the GIS portion. "We've been discussing our appeal to the Gila National Forest Travel Management Plan at the Southwest County Commissioners Alliance meetings. And I want to help Western get a baseball team back."
Hall said he wanted to acknowledge the animal ordinance committee's work, which is about halfway through its work.
"When you talk about the tax bond ordinance, the adult substance abuse treatment center is a big part," Hall said. "To address this center, will cost you 1/3 of a penny for every dollar and it will make a difference in our community."
He also commended Robinson for "wearing two hats, and other hats. All of you (he said to staff and elected officials) make our lives easier with your competence. And yes, the hospital has to make difficult decisions to keep the doors open."
Kasten said he was named the chairman of the NMAC Tax Review Committee. "I went to Dallas and presented the county's case to Moody's. Tonight (Tuesday), I'm going to Albuquerque for the tax review committee.
The commissioners went into executive session after the work session, and adjourned from there.