By Mary Alice Murphy

At the regular bi-monthly meeting of the Grant County Community Health Council on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, Director Cari Lemon said she was working on the application to Freeport-McMoRan's Community Investment Fund.

"We put in our letter of intent and were invited to continue the application process," Lemon told members. "We want to expand youth services, partnering with Gila Youth Services, to the Mining District, especially because of the Cobre Schools decision to go with a four-day school week this year."

She said she had also spoken with Jessica Swapp, the 4-H agent at the Grant County Extension Office. "We had a positive meeting and she will look at logistics for partnering. She was excited because 4-H doesn't have connections in the Mining District."

Lemon said when she was looking at the CIF, because the Health Council has chosen as its priority to receive Department of Health funding for suicide prevention, it fit in with the health and wellness part of the CIF application.

"The Grant County youth suicide rate is well above the state level," Lemon said. "With the four-day week at Cobre, how do we develop programs to address the issues that the schools have no plan for Fridays with no classes?"

She said the Health Council is also proposing bringing in First Aid mental health training, not direct services, but trainings for those who would provide the services to youths in need of mental health first aid.

Lemon also announced an upcoming caregivers course by the New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition. "They are great to work with. They have different curricula they present trainings for with federal funding. I want to keep the partnership going. I was told I could get training and get paid to provide the training."

Several health council members gave sector reports.

Terry Anderson, representing child care, said the Community Partnership for Children is also writing for a CIF grant. "We have to go back to our LiNKS (the shared services network) members to make sure they are all committed, because we are looking at expanding to after-school services."

Evangeline Zamora, representing the disabilities sector, said Life Quest Executive Director Deb Frasca had told her the Family, Infant and Toddler rate study was complete, and another rate study for developmental services is underway.

Marilyn Alcorn, representing the seniors sector, said a woman from the Department of Aging and Long-Term Services visited the Gila Senior Center, along with Edith Lee of Hidalgo Medical Services, which oversees the senior centers in the county.

"She was talking about the aging process, with the focus on congregate meals, Meals on Wheels and a bit on transportation," Alcorn said.

But, according to Alcorn, those attending wanted to talk about their bone of contention, which was losing control of their center to HMS. Where the woman was from they had a multi-age community center. The Gila Senior Center is looking at maybe exiting the Senior Center program and turning the facility into a community center.

"It was interesting, but not what the meeting was supposed to be for," Alcorn said.

Lemon said she could see it was going to be heated, but the woman was a good presenter.

Connie Glenn of Workforce Connections said she is working on finding people jobs. "We have 700 listed as unemployed, but we are working to help those with barriers to getting a job. We're getting them work ready for going into the work force. Tommy Villalobos is also working with the Inmate Support Program."

Grant County District 1 Magistrate Judge Maurine Laney said the caseloads are huge, but with all the courts managing to function. "We will continue to hear a lot about bail bond reform. I think it will be revisited. The governor is pushing to get repeal and some legislators are looking at statutory changes, reinventing and educating us about what bond is for. We're fortunate that Grant County already had the bracelet surveillance program."

She said it was because of the constitutional amendment that voters approved to let district courts and up to hold someone accused of felony without bond.

"It was limited to felons and left a lot of dangerous people doing misdemeanors not qualified to be held without bond," Laney said. "We can't hold them in jail just because they don't have money for bond. The Supreme Court rewrote the rules after the constitutional amendment. We can only decide to place bond on flight risks, not if they are dangerous to themselves or others. There were good things to allow a judge to revoke bond if they violated their conditions of release. The bracelets and surveillance keep us safer here."

McClean said the Center for Health Innovations had taken over the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. "We are working again on school policies. A.J. Sandoval is the new coordinator. We have to make sure we at DWI work closely with the YSAPC."

Judy O'Loughlin, co-chair with this author of the Health Council and manager of the meeting, representing the Extension Service, said the two-class Kitchen Creations diabetes management course is coming up. "It is sponsored by the Department of Health. We will also again present a six-week class, Healthy You, for chronic disease management. It has a weigh-in component, with some mental health measures, too."

She said, on the topic of substance abuse, a nurse had told her that two heroin babies had been born at the hospital recently.

Topics for Healthy You include the importance of sleep, the need for aging in one's own home, reverse mortgages, and joint replacements. "We are getting a lot of requests, and I'm trying to organize speakers from New Mexico State University."

Alcorn said she sees a lot of natural partners for that program from the local community.

Priscilla Lucero, representing economic development, said the governor put out executive orders that "we had to provide reports on what state funding is used for. The community saved $7.6 million by my being the fiscal agent. We are getting ready for bids for the Grant County Regional Water Project, Phase 1, which is funded. Next bids will be for the remaining phases. We have had support for Colonias since 2012, and Grant County during that time has brought in 32 awards totaling $12 million."

Through the Funders Town Hall, the council of governments is providing workforce training for the four-county area of Grant, Luna, Hidalgo and Catron.

Francesca Estevez, representing the judiciary, said substance abuse is one thing that keeps impacting prosecutors. "Meth and heroin and the lack of resources for those with the addictions. Tu Casa (substance abuse treatment facility under construction) will meet some of the needs, but it is pathetic considering the huge needs we have. It's an epidemic. So many burglaries around town are 99 percent motivated by people needing to get drugs."

Zamora said when she worked many years ago at Children, Youth and Families Department, there were meth babies then.

Estevez said in New Mexico a child in utero is not a person until it is born, so there is not much "we can do for women who are pregnant and addicted. CYFD can do something if the pregnant mother is using and has other children."

Anderson said another set of challenging statistics is that the county has 48 children that need or are in foster care and "we only have four sets of parents willing to do foster care."

Estevez said another problem is marijuana. Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome can kill people. It is found in frequent marijuana smokers and the symptoms are recurrent nausea and vomiting. It can be improved by stopping the use of cannabis.

McClean said Colorado is making a lot of money on marijuana, "but they will be using it to take care of the users."

Anderson asked if Lemon would be attending the Grant County Day on Jan. 24 at the legislative session. "The DoH Secretary wants you at the table to support health councils." Lemon said she planned to attend.

The agenda had an item about the future of the health council. But, as the time allotted for this meeting was fast waning, it was moved and approved to set up a special meeting for the one topic.

Lemon said the community needs assessment is due for a revisit. Although many of the problems pointed out in the last assessment done in 2012 have seen some action and improvement, they are still on the table.

"Miguel Vicens of the WNMU School of Business has agreed to have his students help with the needs assessment," Lemon said. "He is totally on board. Many of the CIF applications talk about the data they get from the assessment, so it is needed by the whole community. We will leverage partners to get it done."

McClean, O'Loughlin, Lucero and this editor volunteered to be on the committee.

The next steering committee meeting is set for Feb. 5, and a membership committee meeting will precede it and the future of the health council topic meeting will follow, with the first meeting at 2:30 p.m.

The next full Health Council meeting is slated for Monday, March 19. Venue to be determined.

Live from Silver City

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