The Grant County Community Health Council at its meeting Monday heard presentations, including one on laughter yoga, which got all members of the council and the audience involved.

The first action item addressed a memorandum of understanding between the Health Council and the Grant County Board of Commissioners. The By-Laws Committee met with County Manager Jon Paul Saari and District 3 Commissioner Christy Miller to discuss the issue.

Sam Redford, committee member, reported the MOU is for funding by commissioners to non-profit organizations.

Pending approval from the council and the commissioners, all requests for non-profit funding from the county will go through the Health Council for review, Redford said.

"The health council will ask for a brief statement from the applicants, and will determine if the requests meet county and state regulations," she said.
The health council will determine if the request is consistent with Health Council priorities or fills a community need.

"The commissioners must approve the request," Redford said. "The Health Council only verifies whether the county can finance it. The review process helps us keep track of funding in the community. We can also make recommendations where the proposal can be funded."

Health Council Chairwoman Priscilla Lucero said it is important to keep track of funding coming into the community and helps avoid duplication.

Health Council members approved the MOU, as well as the addition of a Disabilities Coalition as a team under the Health Council.

Mary Ann Finn, a certified laughter yoga leader led everyone in several exercises to aid in laughter and breathing.

The Health Council Community Enhancement Fund, funded by Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., paid for a recent training where 27 people were trained in laughter yoga. Four leaders are ready and eight are almost ready to lead groups in the exercises.

"It's easy to learn and adaptable to all levels," Finn said. "It involves lots of clapping, breathing and laugher, but no jokes. It's physical, emotional and spiritual, and resets the stress level. Remember, no talking, fake it until you make it, and do it with enthusiasm."

From Hidalgo Medical Services Center for Health Innovations Resource Development Director Rachel Kutcher and Workforce Manager Tamera Ahner gave an overview of the purpose of the center.

"We thought about questions and about the way we interact with the community," Kutcher said. "A lot of our root issues are around rural and frontier health policy and social policy in a resource-poor area. We want to create an environment of health in the community."

The mission of the center is to develop and implement strategies and models to improve the quality of life and the health status in the community.

"Before Hidalgo Medical Services, only 70 percent of the two counties' (Grant and Hidalgo) residents had access to health care within 30 minutes," Kutcher said.  "Now it's 96 percent."

She said the center is working in 22 different states on projects. The group was recently funded under the Center for Disease Control to create a six-state program with three partners.

Ahner said, with a federal grant received 2 ½ years ago for the rural and frontier area, FORWARD NM is creating pathways to health care. The project has six major partners and 30 other partners and stakeholders.

"The program is to encourage students to explore health care careers," Ahner said, "and then to support them through their undergraduate years. We have a thriving program for students each summer."

The center is also developing a strong residency program with the University of New Mexico Medical School for rural rotations.

"Last year, we had 70 from UNM and nine other medical schools, representing 11 disciplines," Ahner said. "It's not just for doctors and dentists, but also for allied professionals all the way into mental health."

HMS has been certified as a rural teaching hub, with residency students doing specialty rotations in urban areas the first year, and spending their last two years in Silver City.

An educational component of the project is the Dream Makers Clubs, where middle school and high school students explore health care.

Another program is the B.A. to M.D. program, where 25 students are given a full-ride scholarship. "We have a Grant County student in the program. The Health Career Academy, held the first time last summer, will be an intensive 4-week math and science academy this summer."

Ahner announced the center has been named the third federal area health education center in the state, along with Las Vegas and Las Cruces.  "It is a great way to partner with the Health Council to increase access to quality care."

Health Council Coordinator Tiffany Knauf said the Health Council had surpassed its goal of 5, 000 surveys, with 5, 055 filled out.  She awarded a certificate for a dinner for two to chairwoman Lucero who brought in 450 surveys. She also announced Mary Alice Murphy, who was not present, as the one coming in second place with 334 surveys and Colleen Boyd with 255 surveys coming in third. "These three brought in more than 1,000 surveys."

Knauf gave a PowerPoint presentation with demographics and data already pulled from the recently completed assessment survey.  She explained that she is able to pull data for almost any demographic, community or survey topic. At last week's Prospectors' Legislative Forum, she emphasized to the local legislators that they should call her when they needed data quickly.

She presented the timeline for the assessment survey. Last February, focus groups were held to find out what questions needed to be put on the survey, and in March, the senior survey was developed. In May, the survey was launched and the goal of more than 5,000 surveys was reached on October 15.

"In January, the community profile will be released, at least in draft form," Knauf said. "In May, the plan will be available."

She noted that one in 4 residents of the county older than 18 years of age had filled out the survey.

Health Council member Mary Stoecker said she wanted to express how important the surveys are. In the early years, with the precursor to the Health Council, surveys always showed transportation as an issue. Out of that concern, public transit was developed, and now transportation is not in the top priorities. The same has happened with access to health care.

"We can make a difference in the community," Stoecker said.

Knauf emphasized that 1789 surveys were brought in by Health Council members, equaling more than 200 volunteer hours, the equivalent of $3,500 in volunteer time. She also said 3,500 paper surveys were input by the Health Council's intern, Jesse.

The data will help the alliance of Health Council coordinators across the state draft legislation to re-fund Health Councils.

Connie Hostetler of Senior Lifecycle, said the group has been working hard to educate seniors on Medicare Advantage, and is nearing the completion of the Senior Resource Directory.

A.J. Sandoval, Healthy Kids, Health Communities coordinator, said he is working on the work plan for the final year of funding, as well as working with partners to continue the efforts made to date. He is also seeking funding to facilitate a fitness intervention program out of New Mexico State University.

Health Council member Dr. Don Johnson said the HMS building should be ready for occupancy in February.

He seconded what Ahner had said. "We are projected to have 55,000 fewer primary care physicians by 2020, given the retirement of practitioners and the lack of medical students pursuing the field."

He said those in medical school, even if they go into primary care, are doing subspecialties or becoming hospitalists. "Very few UNM residents are going into primary care—about 1 in 40. The problem is their mentors are university professors who are specialists. I'm glad the HMS programs are happening."

Council member Chris DeBolt announced The Volunteer Center is doing a pilot program at the Mimbres Senior Center.

Deborah Frasca spoke on behalf of council member Evangeline Zamora, LifeQuest executive director.

She gave an update of the Disabilities Advisory Council and its focus, which is to identify the needs of the disability sector. She said many community members are participating in the council and have divided into age groups to determine the needs of each age.

"Evangeline and LifeQuest have made the decision to close the residential adult program," Frasca said. "But we are not closing the agency. We've been here for 40 years and we plan to be here forever. The decision was made due to uncertainties at the Department of Health, in the DD waiver standards and in the assessment scales.

"We are in the process of re-inventing ourselves and will maintain respite, group supported employment, day rehabilitation, family living and independent living," Frasca continued. "The focus group wants to look at all ages and all disabilities."

Council member Mike Trujillo asked about those currently in the residential program.

Frasca explained that a for-profit organization had come in to continue the program for the 12 individuals presently served. "We're in transition. Our hope is that it all runs smoothly with no services lost."

Don Trammell of Bridge Community said the group is in the process of purchasing 10 acres for a planned assisted living-to-hospice facility. "We feel once we have a piece of ground that we can move forward."

The meeting was adjourned.

Live from Silver City

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