Rio Arriba Health Council Assures Seniors are Taken Care Of Locally

Rio Arriba County’s (RAC) Community Health Council (RACHC) is paving a positive path to better healthcare for Rio Arriba senior citizens. Lauren Reichelt of RAC Health and Human Services, along with Española Presbyterian Hospital, coordinated nine, free health fairs geared towards assisting senior citizens in several different healthcare areas.  Reichelt, along with the help of the RAC Senior Program, strategically set up each event at senior and community centers throughout the County. Stops have included Truchas, Chimayo, Dixon, Española, Chama, El Rito, Alcalde, Tierra Amarilla and Coyote. 

“I am so excited with the success we had,” said Reichelt. “The turnout at these events was great when it came to getting the local community seniors to attend. We were able to successfully vaccinate more than 1,400 seniors.”

According to Reichelt, this initiative was kick-started as an on-going effort to educate Rio Arriba citizens about the quality of local healthcare services. A study, conducted by RACHC, showed that healthcare makes up 25 percent of the wage economy in Rio Arriba. The state of New Mexico outsources 75 percent of the $4.4 million it spends annually on Rio Arriba residents to other counties. Moreover, only 58 percent of Rio Arriba’s Medicare recipients use Española Hospital, leaving the County short of the 75 percent Medicare share necessary to access Medicare Sole Provider funds. Reichelt says the money, which could be generated, is around $1.8 million a year, if RAC citizens chose to attend the local hospital instead of using outside health providers.

“We want our citizens to know how serious we take healthcare here,” said Reichelt. “It’s important for them to know that they can count on local healthcare providers to give them the best possible services.”

Reichelt has said that this health initiative will not be the only one she is pioneering. A memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Española Medical Services (EMS), DWI, the RAC Seniors Program and Health and Human Services (H&HS), to train drivers of emergency management trailers, such as the mobile immunization unit for outreach purposes, is now in place. Reichelt is also partnering with Walgreens Pharmacy and the Department of Health (DOH) to coordinate a shingles vaccine series, which should be kicking off in late November.

“My department is heavily invested in the county of Rio Arriba,” said Reichelt. “Being able to initiate important and necessary programs that help keep our citizens healthy makes all the hard work worth it!”

-Erika L. Martinez