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Happy New Year from Health Action NM!

 

Dear Health Action New Mexico Supporters,

Our HANM Board and Team extends our best wishes for a peaceful and safe New Year’s holiday.

We have all passed through a rare moment of history as the pandemic has swept through our communities and impacted our lives in unimagined ways.   While some express a desire for a return to “normal”, normal will never be for those who have suffered devastating loss and major changes to their lives.  Due to the pandemic, we can no longer deny that “normal” was filled with major inequities including access to health care and health, was molded by deeply embedded racism, and among other things, left us in the lurch with a hollowed-out public health system.  Our task is to not return to the old normal, but to instead, craft a new reality that addresses in bold ways the serious challenges and social justice issues that the pandemic laid bare. Our systems and institutions must be fundamentally reconstructed.

Health Action New Mexico (HANM) has spent 25 years advocating for system changes built on patient rights and the access of all New Mexicans to the basic right of affordable, accountable health care. In the 2020 Session, we worked on issues of affordable health coverage including the popular Medicaid Buy-In and consumer relief efforts from of the high costs of medications.

Currently HANM is working in 5 advocacy areas. In selecting our issues, we draw on the policy solutions and innovation from across the country, while learning realities from grassroots communities in NM and crafting our own NM responses for change.

1)     We are excited to join other states in taking head-on the structural issue of unaffordable prescription drug prices.  The ONLY part of health care that has no regulation is the setting of drug prices by manufacturers.  As a result, escalating drug prices are a main driver of increasing healthcare costs and making necessary medications out of reach of many people.   A HANM commissioned poll on prescription drug affordability this fall by GBAO Polling found 44% of New Mexicans reporting not filling a prescription or missing medications due to costs. This is double the national rate. HANM and other key partners such AARP have formed a NM Consumers for Affordable Prescriptions Coalition and will introduce legislation to set up a Prescription Drug Affordability Board as MD and MN have already done and 14 states are reviewing legislation to do so.  Read more about it at the Coalition website: https://NewMexicoCAP.org. Or better yet consider becoming a member and have your organization or business do so as well.  

PDAB Patient Story:

Meet Mr. Val Anaya:

  • Lives in Socorro NM
  • Husband, and father of two
  • Member of Government Abilities Planning Council, on the El Camino Real Housing Authority, Emergency Housing for Socorro County, Valencia County, Torrance County, and Taos County, Elevate the Spectrum

"My wife works at New Mexico Tech, she does conference coordinating work for the different facilities there at New Mexico Tech, and we’re covered under New Mexico Tech’s program of Insurance. So she pays close to $800 a month for a family of four, and even with that, there were times that my insulin bill was $400 a month...Healthcare is always an issue — it’s enough when you’re in good health, but if you have any kind of condition, you know, even with insurance, copays end up being quite high, and prescriptions are quite high, so, it’s rough."

2)     Half of the uninsured in NM are Medicaid or BeWell Exchange eligible for low cost or no cost health coverage but are unaware of their eligibility or, for various reasons, have not investigated the possibility. HANM has been working with the Tax and Revenue Department and other stakeholders to set up an Easy Enrollment system. Starting in 2022, uninsured tax filers will be notified of their eligibility for coverage and will link them up with coverage, in come cases by simply checking a box.  Enabling legislation for Easy Enrollment will be in this session and your support is appreciated. Learn more at https://www.healthactionnm.org/easy-enrollment

3)     HANM is working on a small but important project: Rural Voices for Covid Recovery. We have convened six small rural collaboratives to identify regional gaps in Covid relief, develop and support local solutions and work for new community realities as Covid recovery begins.  It is not only essential that NM rural communities be at the table but that we the public and decisionmakers hear and learn from their resilience.  You can learn from some of their conversations at our blog: https://www.healthactionnm.org/

4)     HANM chairs the NM Dental Therapy Coalition which continues to monitor and contribute comments to the rule making process of the 2019 dental therapy licensing legislation and work to ensure implementation of legislation in NM.   We also work as an ally to the tribes and Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute in setting up dental therapy programs in Indian Country. We are past a time when affordable dental care is not integral to overall healthcare.

5)     HANM is committed to public education of the public health issues of oil and gas pollution in our state.  We held a recent webinar on public health and climate change, are a member of the NM Methane Coalition and testify on health issues and pollution. 

 

HANM is a privately funded non-profit.  Our legislative work is not covered by private foundations and only your contributions allow us to do this advocacy as well as other work not covered by philanthropy.  We are a small organization taking on the biggest issues preventing access to healthcare for New Mexicans.  Please make a vital contribution so we can sustain and grow our work.  You can give by credit card at  https://app.mobilecause.com/form/F6rqeQ?vid=fqfqm or by mailing a check to HANM, 3700 Osuna Rd NE, Ste 504, ABQ, NM 87109.

 

Thank you for your generosity and continued support!

 

Barbara Webber

Executive Director

 

 

Health Action

Las Cruces 12/9 Echo

Today’s meeting was a chance to get updates on COVID response from members of the community in Las Cruces.

    The biggest challenges that we identified were the issues of mental health and access to broadband. As more people have come to rely on the internet this year, the lack of access has hit even harder. The mental health system was also strained before the pandemic, but has become even more so now; asylum seekers have to go through a two-week quarantine before they qualify for services, which has put a greater burden on the infrastructure. Community members are working with local groups to make sure that there are options for socialization; Kids Can is helping children become entrepreneurs and making sure that children are able to become effective advocates for social change.

    The New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services Department is also working on a project to make sure that those in long-term care facilities and nursing homes are able to get holiday cards! In Doña Ana County, the sheriff’s department is assisting with letter collection and delivery. If you are interested, you can drop off letters in person, or send them to Ferrales-Narvaez at Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, 845 N. Motel Blvd., Las Cruces, New Mexico 88007.

    For our next meeting, we’ll be discussing how to recover after the pandemic; rural communities like Las Cruces haven’t gotten a seat at the table in the past, and it’s more important than ever to make sure that solutions for recovery help all New Mexicans. Let’s think about what recovery looks like beyond reopening!

Las Cruces

Las Colonias 12/8 Echo

At today’s meeting, we received an update on the challenges and general infrastructure for the Colonias.

    One of the primary challenges that we identified in this meeting was the difficulty in keeping up with education. There are lots of warning signs for depression and other mental health issues that are becoming more apparent at this point in the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, we would see an average of 60 children per class, but now we’re lucky to see 10. To help deal with burnout, teachers and parents are working to make the material as engaging as possible; one of the teachers we spoke with took their students on a virtual field trip to a museum, parents and grandparents are trying to get kids active and thinking outside of their classes. Despite these efforts, children are still getting tired of learning online. Faculty are receiving training to recognize signs of depression in their students, but teachers are stretched thin and many are retiring.

    Schools are also dealing with the issue of hunger. Since some schools have moved to remote instruction, people are searching for new solutions to make sure that students have food. The Gadsden school district is looking into delivery options, but it’s tough to do that without coming into contact with students and their families. For now, they’re offering EBT cards to those who can’t get to school to pick up lunches.

Las Colonias

Socorro & T or C 11/19 Echo

Today we heard from the Director of the Department of Transportation in Socorro. The Department of Transportation offers low-cost transportation within the city limits on appointment - if you need a ride within the city limits, you can schedule a pickup by calling (575) 835-1501. Rides cost $0.25 for seniors and students, and $0.50 for the general public.

    Those in the department of transportation have reported a dramatic decrease in ridership since COVID. Many of the passengers use DOT services to connect to the shuttle that goes between Belen and Socorro, but since the pandemic hit, the Railrunner shuttle has been cancelled. While most people who take the shuttle between Belen and Socorro do so for classes which have since been moved online, there is still a worry that there are some who need the shuttle for other purposes who may now have to find alternative transportation.

Despite these challenges, we’ve received assurances that the DOT is in talks with the mayor to receive approval to get more drivers during peak hours, expand hours of operation to begin at 7 am so that essential workers can get rides to work, and to extend transportation services between Socorro and Albuquerque.

    Another bright spot is the resiliency that we’ve seen from this community. Hearing about programs to distribute food boxes to those in need, and including socially distant holiday activities is a great way to check in on neighbors and make sure that we’re all working together to get through this pandemic!

    We also had a discussion about how to meet the healthcare needs of those in the city; while the Lord Baltimore Hotel has been established as a Triage, Respite, and Isolation (TRI) Center for COVID patients, there is still a worry that a spike in cases could overwhelm healthcare capacity. For future meetings, we’re interested in thinking about solutions to make sure that rural communities like Socorro are not left behind for the new COVID vaccines, or for mental, behavioral, oral, and holistic health services. 

Socorro & Truth or Consequences

Las Cruces 11/18 Echo

At today’s meeting, we heard from Melissa Ontiveros about the issues facing Las Cruces. Ontiveros wears many hats in Las Cruces and around the state, but you may know her best as the co-president of the New Mexico Public Health Association. Many of the issues in this community aren’t as closely related to the virus, but rather the economic impacts that it has caused. Internet, Insurance, and heating/cooling have all become challenges with the loss of jobs brought on by COVID.

    The Community Action Agency has been helping out families with children by providing $750/month to help with general household expenses, and referring community members to other agencies that provide food support. The Department of Workforce Solutions could be another option in providing relief to families that have lost their jobs, but we’ve seen such a big backlog on unemployment that the system has been tough to use; some people have been waiting so long that the extra $600/week assistance at the beginning of the pandemic had expired by the time that they were formally unemployed.

    We’re also concerned about the lack of social support during the pandemic. Right now, we’re facing a crisis brought on by the virus, but the next crisis will be related to mental health. The biggest concern is with youth and young adults - what are we doing to provide services to them? We need to make sure that we’re providing them the attention and resources they need to succeed in school and social lives.

Las Cruces

Las Colonias 11/17 Echo

At today’s meeting we learned about COVID testing. Right now, community members are being directed to get tested through Quest Labs; results from Quest labs are coming back in 2-3 days, instead of 14 days for the New Mexico Department of Health. The only limitation to Quest Labs is that they require people to be registered as a patient. Some people aren’t registered and are being turned away, but they’re working on removing the registration requirement.

    Another option for COVID testing is a rapid antibody test - those cost around $80, but they return results in around 15 minutes. A Doctor’s order could get the test covered under insurance, but it should be noted that antibody tests are less accurate than a standard test.

    We’ve heard from some community members that infections have been spreading even among those wearing masks. Since this disease is airborne, there is a chance that spread can occur through those with exposed eyes. If you are worried about contracting the disease, eyewear, along with other hygienic practices, is a good way to lessen your risk of exposure.

    We also heard from an employee of Foamex. The virus has not slowed down work at the factory, which has implemented immediate temperature checks and a personal protective equipment requirement. Foamex has employed temporary workers and is in the process of getting a federal grant to make face shields, which should create overtime work.

    At our next meeting, we’ll be discussing specific solutions for stopping the spread of the virus!

Las Colonias

Socorro & T or C 10/22 Echo

Socorro has faced unique challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a college town, many of the concerns revolve around student life, but also to the young and aging populations in town.

Graduate students from New Mexico Tech raised the issue of sustainable employment and healthcare access. While the initial impacts of the COVID shutdown have hurt local businesses, it has also created a strain on students and younger working-age populations. Many students and young adults rely on businesses like restaurants and movie theaters, which have had to shut down to comply with restrictions. Underscoring the severity of these shutdowns is the Capital Bar, which has been around since the Civil War, but has now entered the longest shutdown in its history.

    Beyond the jobs in town, student employees have experienced increased struggles with COVID. While students may be employed, the university payment structure makes it difficult for them to find insurance; tuition waivers for student employees are counted as income, which moves them out of the bracket to qualify for high-quality, lower-cost health insurance. Many students struggle to balance the costs of college with living expenses, and the increased cost of insurance adds to that struggle. COVID has shined a spotlight on the need for all of us to look after our health, and a lack of accessible insurance makes that more difficult.

    Another challenge for residents of these communities is healthcare accessibility; many elderly community members rely on check-ins over the internet to lower their risk of infection, but since they may be unfamiliar with the technology, there’s a learning curve that has gone unaddressed. Older communities also face issues with mental health - socialization has become a risk factor, so programs where seniors read to children and grandkids have gone away.

    In future meetings, we will be discussing and thinking about how we can build support networks for the community. If you’re interested in attending, keep an eye on this feed for meeting announcements, and send an email to Jay Wilson at

, or Joe Martinez at

!

Socorro & Truth or Consequences

Las Colonias 10/20 Echo

You all provided some great perspective on the unique challenges that your communities face in light of the pandemic, as well as the work being done to meet those challenges. The main concerns that we discussed were the lack of accessible testing and education, as well as the possible spread between multigenerational households and those of differing citizenship status.

    Bertha Silva was able to provide some great information on testing sites, which are essential information to pass along to your families and neighbors! We’ll keep you updated and pass along that information as it becomes available.

    The Children, Youth and Families Department has a great resource page for those with children in school! Those resources are available in English and Spanish at https://cyfd.org/news/covid-19 and they cover topics from how to talk to your children about COVID-19, how to create meaningful family time, and how to learn at home successfully! In particular, there is a video available here for how to visit with family. Beyond that video, the official guidance from NM DOH is 

… New Mexico residents who have left the state for less than twenty-four hours for matters attendant to parenting responsibilities; minor children who visit or live part-time with a parent residing in a neighboring state... Notwithstanding the foregoing, any person who leaves or enters the State for... out-of-state parental visitation, education, or court order shall self-quarantine upon arriving or returning to this state.

We at Health Action New Mexico passed along your concerns about differing citizenship status and were able to get some information from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. A formal “Know Your Rights” flyer is on it’s way, but in the meantime, here are some things to know:

  1. COVID testing does not violate public charge restrictions

  2. If you are not a permanent resident, don’t apply for testing coverage: EMSA only covers testing and hospital/ICU related COVID-19 treatment.

  3. Nobody should get a bill for testing and people don’t have to apply for coverage - payments are taken from the provider, not the patient

  4. You do not need to provide a SSN to get testing results back - it is unlikely that DHS will use this information for immigration enforcement, but providing a SSN is optional for the purpose of testing and treatment.

If you or someone you know has been required to give a SSN or immigration information for testing or treatment for COVID, please report that immediately to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center

 

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty: +1(505) 255-2840,

, 924 Park Avenue, SW | Suite C | Albuquerque, NM 87102

 

New Mexico Immigrant Law Center: +1(505) 247-1023, 625 Silver Ave. SW | Suite. 410 | Albuquerque, NM 87102

Las Colonias

Happy Thanksgiving from Health Action New Mexico!

With the historic pandemic ravaging communities across the state and our country, 2020 has proven to be a year that has tested us like no other with much heartache, uncertainty, loss and suffering.  Yet it is a year that has made clear  the challenges we face and for which we must find solutions, especially health injustice, racial inequity and poverty. 

 

From our team at Health Action NM,  we wish you and yours a safe and connected Thanksgiving. It is you our supporters, Board members, fellow advocates and resilient community members that continue to define the vision that makes our work possible.

Giving Opportunities

As you make decisions this holiday season about where to direct your resources, please remember Health Action NM. Our work would not be possible without supporters like you. Here are two simple ways to give to Health Action this coming week:

By selecting Health Action as your preferred non-profit on Amazon Smile, and by making a contribution through MobileCause, you help continue our mission to ensure equal access to quality health care for all New Mexicans.

Health Action

A Personal Story of COVID-19

While it may be easy to get burnt out from all of the coverage around COVID, it's still important to remember that this is a disease that affects real people. Some of those affected are close to home, please take a moment to read the experiences of our very own Gabriella Rivera;

240,000 dead Americans. 1.28 million dead worldwide.

2 of those were my wonderful grandmothers.

I get it. This is awful. It seems never-ending. The restrictions seem oppressive. So many things we all love are banned right now. I get it.
I love going out to eat with friends and family. I love gathering and celebrating. I love interacting with coworkers. I can’t stand being cooped up in my house all day staring at a computer screen.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I love traveling. I’ve had to cancel several major trips and missed out on some great opportunities because of travel restrictions.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I LOVE sports. They sustained me as a kid and they’ve retained a central role in my adult life. Rugby and its community have been one of the most important discoveries in my life.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I love concerts. I love the balloon fiesta and the state fair. I love in-person classes and face-to-face collaboration. I miss a million things about “normal” life.
I love my grandmothers more, and they are both gone now because of Covid. They didn’t have the choice to stay home-they caught it from nurses and caregivers who had no choice but to take public transit and get essentials from the store. The waitstaff at restaurants who serve you when you choose to eat inside don’t have a choice. The clerks at the grocery store don’t have a choice. Healthcare works are drowning, and they don’t have a choice. This isn’t about fear or control, it’s about compassion.
I am exhausted with all of the restrictions. I am deeply concerned for our small businesses and kids growing up in this world. I am furious that billionaires have become trillionaires because of generous bailouts while our ineffectual federal government plays checkers.
This should have been under control. Our government failed to do so. Every other country enjoyed a few months of almost-normalcy before getting hit by this second wave. We never recovered from the first.

We can have genuine policy discussions about this. How to keep kids from taking their own lives, how to keep our small businesses from going under. But I am so, so tired of all the posts acting like people aren’t dying from this. They are, and it’s not your right to cause more death.

Health Action

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