A new state fund designed to improve healthcare for rural New Mexicans announced its first awards on Oct. 17, with $18 million granted to providers looking to bring new or expanded healthcare to their communities.
The new Rural Healthcare Delivery Fund was approved in this year’s legislative session, and $80 million in total was approved for it.
The fund pays for costs not covered by the revenue of providers in smaller communities, and is designed to help new facilities to set up or existing facilities to expand. And only counties which have fewer than 100,000 people are eligible, which is 28 out of the state’s 33 counties.
Eleven providers will receive grants in the first tranche of funding, to include Covenant Health in Hobbs, which will expand labor and delivery and maternal healthcare in Lea and Eddy Counties, and the Laguna Healthcare Corporation, which will expand primary care and lab services in Cibola County.
In a statement released by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office, Pueblo of Laguna Gov. Wilfred Herrera said, “We are profoundly grateful for this grant, which not only acknowledges the unique healthcare challenges faced by the Pueblo of Laguna but empowers us with the resources needed to meet the needs of the community.”
Bill sponsor State Sen. Liz Stefanics (D-Cerrillos) called the new funding program exciting, saying, “the needs being funded include pediatrics, primary care, OB care, dental services, behavioral health, and much more.”
The need for better healthcare in rural communities was highlighted by a report from the Legislative Finance Committee in August this year. Access to healthcare is already limited for people who are often older, have lower incomes and less employer-provided health insurance than those in urban areas.
Long distances to their nearest provider can compound these issues and lead to disparities in the health of people in rural areas, higher rates of substance abuse and chronic pain, and even lower life expectancy.