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Reaching the Unvaccinated

As more groups and individuals join the ranks of fully vaccinated,  another ~40% of New Mexicans and ~50% of Americans have reported a myriad of reasons they are hesitant to get vaccinated.

Recently, KOB 4 Eyewitness News gathered information on a research poll conducted by UNM policy professors. This poll featured over 2,000 responses from New Mexicans in regards to how New Mexicans feel about the Covid-19 vaccines. This research suggests that currently, 36% of unvaccinated New Mexicans intend on never getting the shot (that is 10% of everyone 18+ and 8% of the entire state). They found that vaccine hesitancy is extremely high among rural New Mexicans and Native Americans. Hispanics/Latinos and other minorities had a lower than average vaccine hesitancy rate. The study also found that younger people were less concerned about getting the shot as they felt it was unnecessary. 

This study delved into the various reasons many groups face uncertainty about the vaccine. Some things contributing to such hesitancy within New Mexico include, but are not limited to, cultural beliefs, political beliefs (51% of unvaccinated Republicans say they will never get the shot), overall stress about the moment they get the shot (many people prefer to get their jab through a health care professional familiar and trustworthy to them), misinformation in regards to Covid-19 vaccinations (the uninsured can still get the vaccine), and lack of equitable access. 

A crucial takeaway for advocates is that not all unvaccinated individuals are against the vaccine. Two-thirds of the unvaccinated in New Mexico do intend to get the vaccine eventually but are hesitant or lack equitable access. For these individuals, making the vaccine as accessible as possible, mitigating potential hesitancies such as the fear of missing work, as well as education towards the true science behind the vaccine, will be crucial in the effort to increase vaccination rates.

To help combat the significant number of individuals with a lack of vaccine access, Health Action has embarked on a targeted vaccine project to get rural older adults and farmworkers vaccinated. These efforts will include direct and indirect outreach, acting as a liaison between rural communities and state vaccination programs, and burgeoning partnerships with local clinics and trusted messengers to spread the word about how to get the vaccine. 

Only through on-the-ground, grassroots efforts and direct, tailored action can we begin to witness a shift towards trust in the vaccine among the unvaccinated and increased vaccination rates in rural and vulnerable populations. If the vaccine becomes more available and outreach efforts overcome hesitancy, New Mexico can get ahead of Covid-19 and the Delta variant and prevent more loss of life.

Contact gabriella@healthactionnm.org for information about this project.

Written by Katelyn Patchell, Gurleen Sembhi, and Gabriella Rivera

Health Action

Community Voices: Steven Alton's Experience with Uberly and Drug Affordability

My story is very concerning. I've been prescribed Ubrely for my severe migraine headaches this medication is $259.11 dollars for 10 pills and that is the donut hole price. I've been having migraines for about three years. It took them those three years to find a medication that would work and they tried many which made me feel like a guinea pig. Finally my doctor sent me to New Mexico Neurology. The Veterans Administration did an MRI and couldn't find anything. My neurologist said they don't understand why it happens it just does. They tried two medications one worked and one didn't. My health insurance company didn't want to pay for it because it was name brand and because of the price. My neurologist had to submit three priority authorizations which they denied. And they suggested two generic drugs that would have killed me, they finally okayed it and the Co-pay was $215.30 for 10 pills after that the price dropped to $ 66.60 for 10 pills. I have AARP Medicare Advantage because I can't afford a premium. I can't get Medicade or foodstamps because I make too much money. So the Veterans Administration helps out because I had eight years in the Military. I live on $1428.00 dollars a month I can't afford some of my drugs, rent, food, and so on because of my fixed income. And no one seems to care — not the governor, mayor, legislators, congress, not the president. They take money away from senior citizens and veterans and when we ask why they send us a form letter and say they want to help… ha !! Ha !! And drug companies want to help people get their medications but if you have Medicare or Medicaid you don't qualify for these programs. I know because my doctor and I have tried. And they still won't stop Big Pharma because 402 legislators just accepted 1.8 billion dollars for them to continue doing what they do….enough is enough! Because you're going to help me or you're not, because I can't afford these prices unless you want me dead…

Word of Mouth

Nueva Ley, Permite acceso a Servicios Médicos Para Indocumentados en Nuevo México

Se trata de la ley HB-112, misma que lleva por nombre “Beneficios de Salud para Determinados no Ciudadanos.” La ordenanza recién fue firmada por la gobernadora Michelle Lujan Grisham y prohíbe la discriminación hacia inmigrantes en cualquier programa de cuidado médico financiado por el estado.

La ley federal excluye a muchas personas inmigrantes de programas federales tales como Medicaid, incluyendo a quienes poseen una visa, víctimas de violencia, niños y beneficiarios de DACA.

La legislatura de Nuevo México creó un sistema para que los condados y hospitales utilicen los impuestos locales para cubrir algunos costos de salud para las personas sin seguro.

Word of Mouth

Andrew's Testimony on new EPA Methane Rules

Oil and Gas emissions pose an imminent public health threat. During an EPA listening session for the upcoming oil and gas methane rule, we heard from our own Andrew Baker on the need for action to curb emissions from oil and gas. The full transcript of his statement is below.

If you'd like to provide your own public comment, submissions are open until July 30, 2021 at this link.

            Hello, my name is Andrew Baker and I’m a policy analyst with Health Action New Mexico. I’m a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico’s College of Population Health, and I’ve lived in New Mexico since I was 4 years old.

            I would like to thank the Environmental Protection Agency for allowing me to speak at this hearing today as a member of the public. I believe that the proposed methane rule is in the interest of the health of New Mexicans, and I would like to voice my support. Right now, there are over 130,000 New Mexicans living within a mile of an active oil/gas operation, many of whom are traditionally disadvantaged. As a matter of environmental justice, it’s important that we address emissions across all lands, not just areas with a high population density – more than 1 in 3 New Mexicans live in a rural area, so this issue is especially important for my state.

            To demonstrate the effects of oil and gas emissions on our communities, I’d like to share some findings from a Health Impact Assessment conducted last year in Counselor, New Mexico. This assessment found that residents who lived within line-of-sight of an oil and gas operation (more than ten percent of the population) suffered respiratory symptoms after drilling began near their homes, which is consistent with national health studies. While these symptoms can’t all be attributed to methane emission, we know that methane is a precursor to formaldehyde and is found with other volatile organic compounds and emissions from the oil and gas industry that may increase the rates of these symptoms. Beyond those direct health impacts, people are anxious about the lack of information around the safety of their air, and the impacts of oil and gas pollution compound with health impacts of other particulate matter. I’ve grown up dealing with occasionally poor air quality from dust storms and wildfires, and it’s tough to be outside, but I couldn’t imagine dealing with that short-term stress if I had an underlying respiratory condition.

            New Mexicans care deeply about our relationship with the environment – we’re the Land of Enchantment, and there are plenty of cultures that have been here before the USA was a country, that place an emphasis on environmental stewardship. There’s a deep understanding in New Mexico that the health of our environment is closely tied to the health of our people, but our laws have not caught up with that understanding. I’ll often run into people on the trail or on our public lands who have moved here for the climate, because our dry air helps with respiratory issues, because we’ve only got 4 or 5 days without sunshine per year, and because there are so many outdoor areas for recreation, all put at risk by methane emissions. As a young person, I’ve also experienced the generational anxiety around climate change and pollution. I know many people who have seen the lack of action on climate issues and used that to justify pessimism and nihilism. I have friends who have taken direct action to curb their impact on the climate – I’m one of many people who’ve changed their diet and behaviors to lessen our impact, and plenty of my friends try to stay up to date with the latest news about what they can do to improve their impact on the world, but it’s tough to make those personal commitments when the actions of industry are such an overwhelming factor in climate change. It’s heartbreaking to hear my friends say that they don’t believe it’s ethical to have children, but we are seeing significant impacts to our health and our climate from this pattern of oil and gas development, and it’s tough to convince them to be hopeful.

            I had the chance to sit in on a meeting of the New Mexico Environmental Department’s Ozone Attainment Initiative during initial public comment back in 2019, and it was encouraging to see all the engagement on such an important environmental issue, but there were plenty of points in the meeting where members of the public had questions about the environmental impacts of oil and gas, or methane more specifically – and the line they were given was that the rules didn’t allow for measurement of methane directly, but that ozone could be used as a proxy. More recently, we’ve seen that some of the worst polluters in the country have used the opacity around those rules to self-report their methane emissions and downplay the severity of the harm to the climate and to our health at all levels. I’m hopeful that this rule can capitalize on that engagement and allow local advocates to learn more about what’s in their air and how it affects their health.

            Finally, I’d like to urge this committee to look at some additional actions that can improve the health of our communities. That Counselor study found that residents often did not receive information on projected exposure, or times when emissions would be at their peak. That information is vital for people to make decisions about their health – the dose makes the poison, and if people can take actions to lower their exposure, we should give them the tools to do so. I can see a dust storm and stay inside, but we need special cameras to detect the presence of oil and gas emissions. It’s also important that we have more transparency around emissions compliance – during our last state legislative session we gave our environmental improvement board the authority to deny permits to producers who have not complied with regulations, but this information is often tough to find and not standardized. This is to underline that while state action is possible, we need strong federal actions, and really action at all levels to support this goal.

            Again, I’d like to thank the EPA for addressing this critical issue. Increased commitment to methane emissions is important for the health the environment and all people, but especially for New Mexico and our historically underrepresented communities. New Mexicans have been begging for action, and I hope that this rule is a first step in a comprehensive process to protect our health and our environment.

Health Action

Rural Voices Final Report

Here's how Rural New Mexicans have been dealing with COVID-19

We're excited to share the results of the Rural Voices for COVID Recovery Project with you! At the start of the pandemic, we recognized that rural communities were facing unique challenges that wouldn't be addressed by the traditional relief process. With 1 in 3 New Mexicans living in rural areas, this is a significant lack of representation. To remedy this, we at Health Action convened monthly virtual meetings with members of several communities around the state, from Socorro and Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces, the Colonias, Alamagordo, Roswell, to Clovis and Española. In these meetings we heard from some incredible community leaders - mayors, farmers, sheriffs, students, food bank volunteers, and grandparents. The insights that these communities provided were astounding! While it's easy to see the policy process on paper, hearing how people are affected by those changes offers a different perspective on many issues with relief and rebuilding after the pandemic. Throughout this process, we wanted to make sure that their voices were uplifted, so that policymakers and people outside of rural New Mexico could understand the unique struggles and solutions that have faced 1/3 of our state.

Click Here to view the full report

Click Here to view notable legislation from the 2021 Legislative Session

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

It's Simple: Medications Don't Work if People Can't Afford Them

At Health Action NM, we've partnered with the New Mexico Coalition for Affordable Prescriptions, NMCAP, to advocate for the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help ensure that New Mexicans can count on affordable medications. Here, Albuquerque resident Jeanne Hamrick explains how out-of-pocket expenses for her medication have impacted her life. With so many New Mexicans experiencing serious hardships due to the cost of their essential prescriptions, there has never been a better time for drug pricing reform.

Jeanne has Multiple Sclerosis and is struggling to pay the prescription costs for her essential medication. Watch the full story below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9EbTPl6pQo

 

Health Action

Socorro & Truth or Consequences 3/25 Echo

Participants: Andrew, Barbara, Loren, Joe, Jay, Michael Voegerl, Sharon Sessions, Cari

Notes/Updates:

  • JW: Looking to get feedback from the community on what can be done better for COVID recovery. 

  • Sharon Sessions: Professor of physics at NM Tech, also the director of the office of outreach at the college. Coordinating activities around the community to make sure that 100% of the community has access to thriving and survival sectors of the economy.

  • BW: Have been with Health Action for 11 years, working to make sure that all New Mexicans have access to affordable and quality healthcare. Have always worked in rural areas, looking to fix issues of representation. Trying to figure out how the relief has been reaching rural communities, and what people are doing in the community to supplement that. Assuming that people don’t want to get back to the old normal. Want to hear what visions people have for building back. Circulating survey results to people in the legislature

  • JM: With HANM, born and raised in Southeast NM!

  • LS: Born and raised in La Mesa NM, also with the HANM team, it’s been a great experience learning from the rural communities

  • Michael Voegerl: Director of Student Affairs at NM Tech. Involved with everything that has to do with the students outside of academics.

 

  • SS: What are we looking to get out of this session? You mentioned collaboratives? This is more of a small project, we’re trying to get an idea of what activities have been going on during COVID and seeing what lessons we’ve learned and can share.

  • MV: I’m on the COVID task force at NM Tech - meets every week for 2 hours, covering planning for next semester, among other things. I’ve learned that we have to be utterly open and clear with our community. If we don’t solicit input, we have to be clear why we didn’t do that. Here in the Socorro community, we’re pretty data driven. We went out of our way early on to get input from the community, because solving the problem alone will be impossible.

  • SS: The first word that came to mind was communication. It’s essential to have that strong communication network, especially in collaborative groups to make sure that everything’s clear. Being transparent about how decisions are made is essential. It really comes down to clear communication and an understanding of why things are happening. Also collaboration - we can’t have different efforts siloed from each other. The main thrust of reopening here is to plan for everything. The high school got a bit more time to plan for how to reopen since they’re a bit more fractured, but things have been considered for how to respond to plenty of eventualities.

  • Cari: That’s very broad, we’ve learned a lot of lessons. I think I’ve learned how poorly other people handle stress. The things that have been amplified during the pandemic are inequities that we were already aware of - internet, healthcare, other resources. It’s important to have a community that knows how to access resources and truthful information. I don’t like the internet as much as I used to.

  • JM: What are your observations around the vaccine? Has there been good coordination, have they focused on at-risk populations?

  • Cari: Clearly NM is doing a great job compared to other places. Could we do things better? Of course. A lot of New Mexico is rural and doesn’t have access to high speed internet. I’ve done a lot of nonprofit work where I helped people sign up for insurance, and people don’t know how to fill out forms, remember passwords, etc. It’s not necessarily even older adults, teenagers and other groups aren’t able to properly contribute. People don’t know how to access that information.

  • MV: We’ve been working with the community to help get vaccination and testing sites staffed. NM Tech wants to get our local department of health up to snuff. Helping them with logistics and FD, National Guard. Anyone that would have us, we were there to help out. Our president said “make it happen for everybody.” A vast majority of our residents have taken this virus seriously. It’s unusual to see somebody without a mask, at campus or around town. DOH says that 25% of Socorro county is already fully vaccinated. Within the next couple days, it should jump another 2-3%. We have a great network here in town so that vaccines aren’t being wasted. Our community is working to get that out and make sure that those who aren’t mobile are still finding out about what’s available. People may not have internet access, but they have phones.

  • SS: They’ve offered the teachers as much protection as they can. There have been procedures for how to return to in-person learning. The teachers that wanted vaccines have gotten theirs early, that was important to peace of mind and making sure that they come back ok. The fairgrounds vaccination site has been running great. You drive in and they’ve got people along the way. It’s been incredibly well done. Don’t know if that’s being coordinated by the local gov, or the department of health.

  • BW: There have been reports here in NM that minority communities have not been receiving vaccinations at the same rate as white residents. There have been some interesting data on that.

  • SS: I’m the NM Tech liaison with the tribes. Meeting with Navajo tech is that 140,000 Navajo are already vaccinated. All of the students at the college are doing well in getting covered.

  • MV: I’m the coordinator for diversity and inclusion at tech. We haven’t heard much about inequity from the people here at tech. There hasn’t been much pushback. The city of Socorro has been doing a good job of getting people vaccinated. It’s helping quite a bit.

  • What opportunities are there to prepare students for jobs of the future?

  • MV: There’ve been lots of collaborations between NM Tech and other colleges in the state to get New Mexican students into a college program or something else to push them towards from a 2-year to a 4-year program. Solar jobs are going to be the wave of the future, but it’s not a long-term solution. We’re working on looking at other solutions. 

  • SS: There’s a lot of hope here! Last week, the movie theater reopened, which was really exciting. The doctor’s office has been more accommodating since last week. People are excited to go out to restaurants, they’re feeling a lot more confident and comfortable.

  • LS: People in Anthony are seeing similar results. Lots of small but significant changes.

  • MV: Hope is what we’re all shooting for, but vigilance still has to be a major factor. There probably won’t be changing on messaging around campus, but we’re still conscious of the challenges. Still weirded out to dine indoors. Having to help students re-socialize will still be a big challenge. Students want to get out and be social, but anxiety creeps in. It’ll be interesting to see in the next couple months what problems people have with re-introduction to society.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Socorro & Truth or Consequences 2/4 Echo

Participants: Jesse Griffith, Andrew Baker, Barbara Webber, Loren Schoonover, Jay Wilson, Kurt Lehr, Luis Vidal, Nicole

 

Jesse Griffith: Teaches digital arts at Socorro High School

 

Nicole: Teacher at Socorro High School

 

Kurt Lehr: Also a teacher at Socorro High School

 

Luis Contreras Vidal: Student at New Mexico Tech. Originally from Mexico City.

Notes:

  • JG: Board meeting yesterday, some of the topics that came up were bringing back the middle school students on governor’s orders. High schools coming back on the 16th, concerns about the hybrid model, some classrooms still need DVD and other amenities. Right now, my classroom is available for 10 students. Vaccination event today, teachers were able to get the first round of the Moderna vaccine. It’s been a big week and a half! There’s a lot coming down the road - we should be seeing our students in a week and a half, so we’re playing by ear right now. Teachers and classrooms are getting ready. We’re still nervous, but trying to be optimistic.

  • KL: Similar story. Today’s vaccination went fantastic, smoothly, we were able to stay in our cars and get assistance from the fire department and public health professionals. Thought it would be jam packed, but they were able to keep distance. Rollout and administration of vaccine went well, which is a good sign

  • Nicole: They made the week sound a lot calmer than it actually was, but things have been going smoothly. Part of the reason that there was no line was because we were the first there. They did training on how to fill out the forms and get the proper information to everyone.

  • LCV: Not really any updates on the Tech side. Haven’t been vaccinated because grad students aren't a priority, not sure if that extends to Teachers’ Assistants. They’ve told us to register through the NM vaccine website, but there hasn’t been a conversation between Tech and DOH as far as I know.

  • JW: Getting out our survey! If you could rate 1-10, what would you rate the response?

  • JG: Compared to previous COVID, it’s still pretty low. The World doesn’t want to be in this situation. We’re still dealing with what we have. Still dealing with students who haven’t gotten vaccinated. Feeling grateful to have gotten the teacher vaccination, but there’s still a large proportion of the population that haven’t gotten covered. Hope that everyone else can have that peace of mind from vaccination. Would rate it about a 2

  • Nicole: Would also rate 2, but for different reasons. Seems like the administration is trying to push the limits, rather than play it safe. They’re trying to push for a greater percentage of students in the building than is allowed by the public health order. We’re supposed to do these things in order to open, but they’re doing it without consideration of safety. They’re doing it because it’s what we’ve been told, not because it’s to protect us.

  • JW: Have you heard anything from the parents?

    • Nicole: Still confused on the high school athletics side. Kids were originally told that they couldn’t play because they weren’t in the building. Now that that’s been taken apart, there’s less people on the list to come back. There are some who would rather stay home and carry on that way, but athletics have been a source of confusion. Parents spoke about uncertainty at the board meeting. PPE sounds great, but they’re aware that the high school staff is not communicating well enough with each other. There’s no real concern about the safety aspect of the building.

    • JG: There were some big holes revealed when we heard about plans from the other schools. Hearing the Middle and elementary schools’ plans, it made it apparent that we haven’t prepared as much. Hearing a lot coming from Middle school staff, but that’s part of the reason why the HS opening date got pushed back. Lots of concerns about why parents weren’t notified about this. Lots of logistical problems that could’ve been handled with better communication to staff. First question opening the doors today was “is school delayed?”

    • Nicole: On top of the confusion report, we were all in the board meeting. Had other teachers come in and ask about what happened. Nothing sent out to a majority of the staff. There’s no way that we’re going to be able to communicate that to students or families if we don’t have a solid plan ourselves.

  • JW: What have they been using to communicate?

    • Nicole: Mostly informal, conversations in the halls. Sometimes we receive updates from the admin. Most of what we’re learning is from teachers who are going out of their way to seek out that information.

    • KL: Most of my experience has been similar. If I had to rate, I’d give it a reluctant 4 in part due to the vaccination. There is a shortage of viable health staff. We have no school nurse (one was hired yesterday, hasn’t been officially announced). You can see where this is going regarding communication. Don’t know what communication is like at tech or in other parts of the county. There’s little united effort.

  • JG: It’s tough to know what’s going on all around town. Most of what I’ve heard about tech has come from these meetings.

  • KL: Still don’t know what’s going on around town. Frustrating to have these experiences.

  • LCV: What Tech was doing to keep track of COVID is rapid testing. We have to take rapid tests on campus to make sure that everyone has access to campus. There needs to be better communication with the city. Some of the students are from out of town, and don’t have access to campus. There needs to be more work done by Tech to keep track of cases.

  • JW: What do solutions look like?

  • JG: Better communication! Lots of the information that we’re receiving has come from facebook. Have been actively avoiding social media because of politics, but that’s the only place where a lot of information is available.

  • LCV: How many people come to these meetings between Tech and the schools? Talking at these meetings could be a good start, we need to disseminate that information.

  • Nicole: Knowing when all of these meetings are happening. The only place that this info is available is on Facebook, so if you’re not cued in on there, you’re not in the know. Sometimes I miss some stuff because of avoidance due to toxicity. Newspaper has a weird discrepancy. Magdalena has a much larger space than Socorro. Don’t know when the teacher’s meetings are and sometimes they aren’t posted prominently. Maybe if we made a community calendar of some sort? Sometimes the city sends out a list of events happening in a month, but not as a calendar. Having a literal calendar that people can consult to see what’s happening might be a good thing to make it clear what’s happening when and where. Internet has also been an issue. We don’t know who’s advocating.

  • KL: Hopefully when this all gets better, we can continue that conversation about the internet.

BW: What we’ve been hearing is that some of these district are mandating vaccinations. That’s been an issue of controversy on how to proceed. Some other areas of the state are also complaining about lack of information on how to get vaccinated. Right now, they only have about ¼ of the population registered. The legislature is about halfway through, commitment to broadband and better internet service is of particular interest.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Socorro & Truth or Consequences 12/17 Echo

Attendees: Jay Wilson, Barbara Webber, Joe Martinez, Loren Schoonover, Melissa Ramsey, Kathy Gonzales, Jesse Griffith, Adrian Tapia

 

Melissa Ramsey: Director of Socorro Storehouse Food Pantry.

 

Kathy Gonzales: Director of local homeless shelter (Puerto Seguro)

 

Jesse Griffith: Teaches at Socorro High School - Visual Arts and Digital Media

 

Adrian Tapia: Department of Workforce Connections.

 

Luis Contreras: Student and grad student at NM Tech

 

JG: This week we’re wrapping up finals. From a teaching perspective, it’s been a challenge to follow up with students who don’t have the resources to succeed in online learning. People have lacked the skill sets to effectively navigate the new learning environment. Screening at the physical school has been good, take temperature regularly and use hand sanitizer. Have to readjust to different practices this year, which has been a big hurdle. Art and digital media are hands-on experiences, so teaching has become mostly tech support. This semester has been better than the spring, but there’s still a gap in online training.

 

KG: Has been difficult to keep providing services at the rate that people need them - a lot of the volunteers for the shelter were elderly people, so most of the volunteers were lost at the start of the pandemic. People have had to come in one-by-one to access services, which has cut down the number of people who can be served. 

 

MR: About ⅓ of the food that we had pre-pandemic. Since COVID hit, they’ve been giving extra food stamps to families and households. Some of the clients receive between $5 and $75, but that has been boosted tremendously at the federal level - now that that’s set to expire, there’s a danger of lapse.

 

AT: Right now we’re focused on getting people back to work safely. Current work is outreach to local businesses and adjustment as the situation changes.

 

LC: Biggest concern from a student perspective is making sure that people are still able to work and learn effectively remotely. There should be consideration of student needs. The institution says that they care, but there is a perception that they don’t.

 

What work is being done to make sure that people are able to return/enter the job force after the pandemic?


JG: Lots of dual credit and career-minded teaching at the school. Trying to give students the skills that they need to build a foundation for a career. Had been having success with that before COVID, but without face-to-face contact, it’s tougher to instill that mindset.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Las Cruces 4/8 Echo

Participants: Andrew, Barbara, Loren, Melissa Ontiveros, Rose Garcia

RG: Part of a non-profit organization that works to build affordable housing and expanding/building out small businesses (Tierra Del Sol). Many small businesses and housing construction are struggling because of the pandemic. Tierra Del Sol specializes in some of those areas. We build housing in many of the smaller cities, as well as Las Cruces and larger cities. In Multi-family, we build several facilities that are subsidized for migrant workers. We have about 400 units with 4-5 people in each apartment. Lots of the farmers and agricultural workers live in those apartments. NM gets a lot of money in GRT from farm workers. Our interest is those farmers who work in the field. We had to get legal aid to get them water because they weren’t able to wash their hands while they were working. Since August, we haven’t been able to get public clinics to run COVID testing. Two of the clinics contacted me, and they’ve both offered to have open-door testing. Now they’re opening up the different clinics to provide the vaccines. Several of the farm workers’ families have come forward. They don’t have to jump through as many hoops. A private clinic opened up yesterday (physician’s vascular clinic in Las Cruces) - anyone who doesn’t have a vaccine can get one until they’re finished. We’re really pleased that more recent offerings have come through. The DOH has been a nightmare to get through registration. We’re lucky that a sister-in-law works for the DOH and has been running interference to get people appointments. It’s been tough to get people appointments. Most people in the county don’t have computers and it’s tough for them to get registered. That system needs to be improved. The Lt Governor’s office should have set up some 24 hour clinics. A lot of the workforce is busy at all hours. We’ve lost several dairy workers because they don’t have access, or are afraid to go through the process. Mayor Herrera had mentioned that it would be helpful to have the vaccines distributed through fire stations since there is one in every county. There are these organizations that get relief money, but they’re tripping over each other trying to get the money out, but this could all be done through the community centers. People are trying to get relief funds, but we can’t be doing it online. There have been too many regulations added. There are several clients who aren’t able to pay their water or sewer bills. The utility companies will work with the counties to underwrite the service, but it’s tough to do that outreach through the cell phone. People work after 5, so one-time calls aren’t enough.

 

Notes/Updates:

  • RG: Las Cruces just opened up a new hospital. My son got the contract to do the computer systems for the hospital. It’s a community hospital that’s smaller than the other two, but it’s good added value and a great location. The same developer is interested in building another private hospital in Las Cruces. Private investors from TN.

    • BW: We’ve had some issues with the private TN hospitals because they’re quick on collecting medical debt, but we’ve gotten some good legislation to prevent that.

  • RG: Lots of changes happening in the health industry, doctors fees are changing. Behavioral health is one of the biggest issues in rural NM, especially southern.

    • BW: Behavioral Health is definitely an area where we’re expanding.

  • RG: I’d like to see behavioral health expand, in order to mitigate some of the prices of other health services and prevention. Initially we heard from some communities that older adults and those at home who were isolated before were at risk. People have been working to get them included, but now we’re looking at how to get them safely reintroduced in a way that supports them. There’s a big need for churches and other community groups.

  • BW: The public charge rule has been basically rescinded, but there needs to be an educational campaign from trusted messengers to reach them.

  • MO: I work with the community action agency. Also serve with several other coalitions. There are a lot of people who are struggling with mental health, so we need to improve access and availability of those wraparound services. My biggest concerns are housing, behavioral health, and broadband. Hopefully we can get those services up and running.

  • BW: In the legislature, there was a lot more focus on rural issues. We’re trying to get as much grassroots involvement as possible. It’s heartening to see this focus. In the South, there’s been a lot more election of people who are progressive on these issues. Don’t know if we have direct connections in SF, but we haven’t taken that on.

  • MO: Working to get in touch with Jeff up in SF to get this implemented.

  • BW: In the interim committees, we have to work to make sure that we get vaccinations out before another spread.

  • RG: Presbyterian has been doing a good job of making announcements/logistics and getting out flyers. You can do a lot of good work if you get messages out to apartments and other vulnerable groups.

  • BW: The session was chaotic and confusing, but at the same time, we had a good impact on the bills that we’re trying to get passed.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

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