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Health Council reports and announcements heard

After the presentations at the Monday, Sept. 17 meeting of the Grant County Community Health Council, chairwoman Priscilla Lucero welcomed two new members—Western New Mexico President Joseph Shepard and Sheriff Raul Villanueva.

The council also approved the appointment of Judy O'Loughlin, representing the agricultural and ranching sector, and Gus Benakis of Silver Schools, representing the school sector. The appointments will be presented to the Grant County Commission for approval.

The council and steering committee meeting schedule for 2013 was also approved.



During staff updates, Coordinator Tiffany Knauf reported that to date 4,600 assessment surveys have been filled out.  "We attended an average of six events a week to present the assessment." The goal continues to be 5,001, and the deadline for completion is Oct. 6, the day of the Mimbres Harvest Festival. Anyone wishing to fill out the survey should contact a health council member, call the health council at 575-388-1198 or to fill it out online, go to www.gcchc.org and click on the button to take the survey.

Knauf said she hopes to release the profile in January, about the same time as the 2013 Resource Directory, which is being updated. Available for download as a .pdf file on the website, www.gccch.org , and at www.grmc.org are resource directories for cancer and seniors, as well as the previous full directory. She said once the profile comes out, the profile and directories will be uploaded to flash drives for the council members.

She reported the New Mexico Health Council Alliance, which was formed after the Department of Health ceased funding health councils throughout the state, has, thanks to the Kellogg Foundation received funding for a full-time coordinator. Knauf will attend the next meeting, because Hidalgo, Luna and Catron have no funding for health councils, so she represents the whole area.

Red Hot Children's Fiesta was deemed a success, with a new high of 960 maps being returned for prizes, and about 2,800 community members taking part or being involved in the event.

Connie Hostetler, senior issues coordinator, said the group meets regularly every month, and is in the process of updating the senior resources directory. She also coordinates the health fairs held around the county. Surveys will be presented at the booths at the Mimbres Harvest Festival to find out how the health fairs are working.

She also announced caregiver training at Gila Regional Medical Center and WNMU. The faith group list is being resurrected, so information can be put into church bulletins.

A.J. Sandoval, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities coordinator, reported that the Food Basket stores in Silver City and Bayard now have one lane in each store that are family-friendly, with no candy and no tabloids.

"We have also talked to Albertson's, and management said approval has to come from the regional office," Sandoval said.

In another project his group is promoting, Farm2School will serve elementary students local snacks, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots. "We will present on why local, healthy food is better."

"I also work closely with the trails group," he said. "Right now, the group is doing a survey about usage."

Health Council Chairwoman Priscilla Lucero said a considerable amount of time has been given to promoting the health council assessment survey. "Our original goal was 9,000, but realistically we want to reach 5,001, to get more than Bernalillo County did. We are already using the data gathered. The vocational education committee is using it."

Nikki Zeuner of The Wellness Coalition, who was sitting in the audience, suggested the survey be given to political canvassers to get them completed when they were going door-to-door.

Knauf said the Plan and Profile Committee would meet Sept. 27 at noon to discuss the next steps after completion of the assessment, and a half-day retreat for council members would be planned to create the profile. "I want to know specifics of what changes you want."

During the report from the Steering Committee, Dr. Don Johnson, gave an overview of a presentation made at the last full council meeting. Dan Haggard, Children, Youth and Families Department deputy director, said Grant County was no longer eligible for the Getting to Outcomes process.

Johnson said he sorted through the statistics provided by Haggard. Changes in Grant County's numbers from 2008, when the county was eligible to participate in the GTO process to 2010, when it no longer was, include:
1)    Adolescent birth rate rose slightly;
2)    Preterm birth rate rose, but very little;
3)    Very low birth rate dropped significantly;
4)    Infant mortality dropped;
5)    The percentage of residents living under the federal poverty rate dropped, although it still stands at 18.9 percent;
6)    Juvenile arrests increased significantly;
7)    Domestic violence rate increased significantly;
8)    High school graduation rate improved significantly;
9)    Child abuse reporting rate dropped; and
10)    The unemployment rate dropped.

In addition, the school report ranked Cobre No. 43, with a graduation rate of 74 percent, and Silver at No. 59, with a graduation rate of 89 percent. Los Alamos was ranked the best at No. 78.

Johnson said he did not know which statistics were ultimately used to place counties where on the list.

He also said in 2008, the county was ranked among the five worst counties in the state and third worst in enhancing community collaboration, but by 2010, the county was no longer eligible. "Now we're the 15th worst."  Johnson pointed out that Nos. 3, 4, and 10 all improved. However, the domestic violence rate has skyrocketed, "perhaps because more are being reported. The juvenile arrest rate also increased. We need to include this data in our plan and profile, as well as our priorities."

Johnson gave credit to Gila Regional Medical Center for tackling the issue of low birth weights.

Shepard reported the university has 450 more students this semester. Johnson gave WNMU credit for increasing programming, and the Health Council, which can also take credit for several initiatives.

Francesca Estevez of the district attorney's office and a council member said the child abuse rate is definitely not dropping.

In sector reports, Brian Bentley, GRMC chief executive officer, said the hospital came to the conclusion that it needed to expand and renovate the facility at a cost of $38 million. The hospital, a county-owned facility, is looking at financing options. Construction will take about two years, and renovations about 18 months. Everything will be completed by 2017, and "will make us good for 20 years. We feel health financing will drop, so we developed a conservative financing package. A brand-new hospital would cost $100 million to replicate as it is. This will expand it."

Estevez asked if the hospital would be offering new services, such as trauma. Bentley said trauma would not be offered, but the hospital plans to hire a cardiologist to be on staff.

Evangeline Zamora, LifeQuest director, said she had concerns about changes coming to the Medicaid waiver. When the state decided to close developmental disabilities facilities and put the services on community organizations, the Medicaid waiver was put in place.

"They are reassessing those on the waiver," Zamora said. "Three thousand are on the waiver, and 2,000 have been assessed. There are a lot of unknowns among providers. Some of those with 24-hour residential care have been moved down to 18 hours residential service. I've seen increased mandates, and have put in cost-saving measures. We, as agencies, don't know where the individuals will be after assessment. We are more concerned about their safety. We also stand to lose revenue."

The community organizations also have unfunded mandates and cuts in reimbursement, she said. "LifeQuest is the only non-profit provider in the community, and we've cut back. There is no formal appeal system on the assessment. Many of these individuals have received this level of support most of their lives. The tool being used is not the issue, but the way it is being implemented."

Zamora said the funding is federal, administered through the state. "This is a specific New Mexico issue."

Bentley said the state is completely redesigning Medicaid, to cut $500 million out of the program.

Zamora said the Developmental Disability waiver was left out of the redesign. She predicted the change would affect 13 to 15 individuals.

Susie Trujillo of GRMC asked where they would get services. Zamora said the services would be available with for-profit groups, but the individuals would face some issues.

Lucero said the health council is seeing people coming in asking about public transportation to get them to activities.

Zamora said the residential program would be more impacted. "We are still offering other services to help them become as independent as possible."

Lucero reported Grant, Hidalgo and Catron counties received Certified Community Initiative recognition and funding.

She also said the State Association of Councils of Government received funding from the Economic Development Administration to do a statewide economic development plan. "(The Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments is) the fiscal agent, so I can tell them about rural problems.

Shepard encouraged those present to vote yes on the Bond Issue C, for $120 million for higher education. "We would receive $4 million to improve parking, sidewalks and curbs. It did not pass statewide last election. For us, it is critical for job creation and safety. If it passes, it will not raise taxes, because it is a bond issue."

Enrollment at WNMU is up from 3,300 last year to 3,800 this year. Transfers increased by 33 percent. He said most were coming from Arizona and California where in-state tuition is more than WNMU's out-of-state tuition.

A residence hall is under construction, and will provide 200 beds in fall 2013. Then the plan is to take down Eckles Hall and build Mustang Village. "The revenue bonds are self-supporting, self-sustaining. There will be 300 students on campus. If we increase to 5,000 students, it will impact the roads."

He reported he thought there were more purple shirts at the recent football game in San Diego than the home team's colors.

Cindy McClean of the prevention sector said with an increase in students, there would likely be a need for more underage drinking help.

"We do not do well with mental health," Shepard said.

Bonnie Zelinko of Workforce Connections said her office has practical insights for employers. A training session will be held Oct. 24. She invited those interested to call 538-3737 to register.

Colleen Boyd of the Sexual Assault Support Services and a council member said October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Villanueva said the proclamation would be made Oct. 1 at the Woman's Club.

Kanuf announced prostate-specific antigen testing would be available at the Mimbres Harvest Festival on Oct. 6. On Oct. 9 and 10 will be a Transtria site visit to evaluate Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities. Oct. 19 is the deadline for the next Community Enhancement Fund applications.

Every Saturday a bus runs from the Mining District to the Farmers' Market in Silver City for residents to buy local food.

Zeuner announced a full day of Community Engagement training for non-profit organizations on Oct. 2, with an optional half-day on Oct. 3. The session is funded by the CEF.

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