The Gila Economic Development Alliance held its monthly Roundtable on Oct. 19, with featured speaker Hidalgo Medical Services chief executive officer Forrest Olson talking about the new HMS building in downtown Silver City.

"I've been in the new building several times," Olson said. "It's quite impressive. Disclaimer: I had nothing to do with the planning."

He announced a ribbon cutting and grand opening at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, although the move-in date for staff and patients is by the end of the year.

The first floor will house primary care medical services, with 26 exam rooms, a community room, and the nutritional education area, with a registered nurse health educator.

"We hope to have a rural family practice residency program, with the residents spending their first year in Albuquerque for specialized rotations, and their final two years here," Olson said. "The earliest start will be fall 2014."

Half of the second floor will house the mental health services, with the other half dedicated to dental services. Also on the second floor will be three dormitory-style lofts for the residents.

"The facility is one place for integrated care," Olson said.

Earl Montoya, Silver City resident, asked about mental health services, and whether they would address youth violence. "It's a problem in Grant County. It seems like there is no integrated process for youth violence."

Olson said nothing specific for youths was planned, but HMS is talking to Kathleen Hunt, Border Area Mental Health Services director, and Brian Bentley, Gila Regional Medical Center chief executive officer, for the three entities to work together.

Montoya said it seemed no one has sat down to have coordinated efforts.

Tony Trujillo, Gila EDA member, asked what will happen to the old building at Med Square, to which Olson said it would be use for administration.

Trujillo asked how many new jobs would be created.

Within six months, Olson said four new physicians and two new dentists would come on board, with staff equaling about 18-20 new jobs. "A pediatrician will split time in Lordsburg and two family practice physicians will be here."

Brett Kasten, Grant County Commission chairman, asked what would happen to the clinic on 32nd Street. Olson replied that it will remain open.

To Montoya's question about whether HMS was hiring bi-lingual workers, Olson replied: "Defiintely."

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director, asked how many mental health providers would be at the facility.

Olson said the clinic is well understaffed. "We have been hiring, but we cannot break even with mental health services. We have to take funding from out other services."  He said HMS is looking at partnering half and half with BAMHS on tele-psychiatry. "We have ramped up for social workers. One of the psychiatrists will be downstairs with the medical folks and working with mental health issues."

Jeremiah Garcia, Gila EDA chairman, asked how HMS and GRMC were collaborating with private entities.

"We haven't been working together," Olson said. "The piece we're missing is the local private partnership with private counselors. When we get overloaded, there are generally two points of entry into the mental health system, through jail and the hospital, but here we have other points of entry."

Montoya said he believes there is a misconception among area residents about the new facility. Because of the area-wide bad problem with alcohol and drug abuse, people think "you're going to do detox."

"No, only outpatient," Olson said.

Mary Stoecker, public health, said a four-county group is working to get not just detox, but to get services back into Yucca Lodge at Fort Bayard. "We had the proposal again in 2009, but it went nowhere. We're working on it again. What are the community resources? There is no one now. The detention center is interested in doing a piece, and Deming, a piece. It's the Continuum of Care Coalition working on the issue. We are looking at prevention through detox through after care."

Montoya pointed out that health is part of economic development, to which everyone agreed.  

Kasten said the county, along with Silver City, has begun discussion on a 1/8 local option tax for behavioral health, but the issue will need to be approved by the public in a vote.

Olson continued his presentation and said Tammy Ahner is in charge of education.

"We have a huge shortage of physicians, with rural health affected more acutely," Olson said. "We are partnering with Western New Mexico University and have Dreammakers Clubs in middle school, as well as having Forward New Mexico: Pathways to Health Careers."

HMS developed an internship for local students who rotated throughout HMS. "Two who started out interested in physical therapy now want to be dentists. We are getting kids aware and involved. Tammy does a great job staying in contact with the kids. She also does presentations."

Garcia said that was part of preparing the local work force. Trujillo suggested she present at one of the Roundtable meetings.

The next article will cover the presentations given by participants in the Roundtable meeting.

Live from Silver City

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