Editor's Note: This is the Part 15 of a multi-article series on the Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, held at Western New Mexico University on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Community groups presented their needs and concerns to New Mexico Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez, and Sen. Howie Morales.

Charlie Alfero and Tamera Ahner gave a presentation on the Center for Health Innovations.

Alfero said the new center was formed to assure that rural health would be well represented on health needs.

"We have four issues, and two are around work force," Alfero said. "We received funding from the Department of Health and we will ask you to look at increasing the model for workforce solutions. A second issue is our rural residency programs. Items of interest are care coordination and family support services to work with the high-cost, high-risk, most expensive Medicaid patients."


He said Hidalgo Medical Services and the Center for Health Innovations have lowered the costs of these patients with high results and believe better preventative measures are needed.

"Lack of air transport to the northern part of the state is a problem," Alfero said. "We have used it consistently and extensively. To maintain connections without the opportunity to fly back and forth is detrimental."

Ahner, HMS workforce manager, said she would give an update on where the program has been and where it is headed.

"We had instant results from student interactions of the past year, as a result of Memorial 65," Ahner said. "We expect an expansion of health jobs of 35 percent over the next 10 years. We have had 1,4000 encounters with students over the past year. In the first Health Career Club, 100 percent said the club had influenced their career plans toward health care. Forty percent want to work in the community. Students are interested in expansion of the program.

"We held a four-week math and science academy this summer," Ahner said. "The Department of Health says it supports the model and to 'please take it into other parts of the state.' Our proposal in your packet speaks to future expansion of the program, while maintaining the hub in Silver City."

Hamilton asked when the new HMS building downtown would open.

"We expect substantial completion by Dec. 17," Alfero said. "In January, we will have the grand opening, and the facility will be open to the public in February. We will move our Health Innovations Center. We have signed a lease with Harry Bright for that two-story brick building on College Ave. We ran out of space."

Martinez said it was good to hear "young people wanting to stay home and have their children grow up here."

Morales commended them for Dreammakers—"an educational achievement we need to look for. They are looking for a career in health care." He asked about the two additional sites for Forward New Mexico.

Ahner said HMS has signed a five-year contract with the Department of Health, with the first year for planning and identifying the two sites.

"We received federal funding and will add Luna and Catron counties for school-based work there," Alfero said.

Morales said Senate Memorial 65 had been mentioned. It will provide a study for a vocational and technological school in Grant County.

"We have been following it," Ahner said. "We want to provide a meaningful partnership with Western New Mexico University and the school districts."

The next presentation was by Grant County Community Health Council coordinator Tiffany Knauf.

"I am excited to share data from our recently completed Community Assessment Survey," Knauf said. "The Health Council is the health and wellness planning council for the county. We want to remind you of the importance of re-funding health councils across the state. We have survived on unencumbered funding, and then we appreciate Gila Regional Medical Center picking up the funding for our health council."

As for the survey, Knauf announced that 5,055 surveys had been completed. "This represents one in four people over the age of 18." This is the highest response rate in the state and potentially in the nation."

"I can sort data in minutes, if you're sitting at the Legislature," Knauf said to the senator and representatives.

"Six hundred and 40 veterans completed the surveys," she said. "The communities had slightly different results. For instance, for Hurley, the concerns were water, fire and roads. In the Mining District in general, it was workforce and homelessness.

"We also had a page in the survey dedicated to senior concerns," Knauf said. "The data is already being used. In Santa Clara, the third most important concern was senior services, and access to a pharmacy was No. 1 in Hurley."

She said a concern for seniors in trailers and mobile homes was that manufactured homes do not qualify for subsidized repair and weatherization.

"We hope to have the profile done before the legislative session," Knauf said. She handed Community Resource Directories to the legislators.

"Your survey has to be the project of the year," Morales said. "The up-to-date information and the large amount of the population surveyed will be a plus."

She said a comprehensive report of the data would be given at the Health Council meeting at 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3. She invited the legislators to attend.

"I would like a comprehensive report," Morales said.

"I am happy to sit with any of you to discuss it," Knauf said.

Martinez asked if the data could be broken down by community.

Kanuf waid it could, and reported that 64 percent of respondents lists Silver City as their home, 7 percent listed Bayard, 5 percent Hurley and 4.5 percent Santa Clara.

"I look forward to looking at the Community Resource Directory," Hamilton said. "How many of you are there?"

"There are two of us," Knauf said of herself and assistant coordinator Kendra Milligan.

"We didn't ask any questions about disabilities on the survey, because people with them are self-selecting," Knauf said, "but we are working with a group under Susie Trujillo to get disability data."

The next article will cover the Local Collaborative 6 and Life Quest.

Live from Silver City

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