Healthy Communities

A systemic approach is needed.

I believe that state government can and should play a more effective role in improving citizens’ lives. One area that I will focus on is improving access to and availability of healthcare including behavioral and addictive treatment and prevention services. With the on-going efforts at the federal level to undermine the Affordable Care Act, one of the biggest challenges that the NM state legislature will face in coming years is to ensure that all New Mexicans have access to necessary and affordable healthcare.

It is important to take a holistic approach to this goal. We need to redesign communities and schools to integrate health and well-being into their missions. All New Mexicans must have reliable access to primary care and preventative services, as well as specialty care. We know that spending money and energy on wellness up front saves money in the long term, but we haven’t been doing this as well as we could as a state.

To achieve this goal, we start at the beginning by supporting young families. This includes an array of programs and policies. In addition to universal access to excellent early childhood programs, we need to increase support for state health department offices, and school-based centers. These programs are charged with the responsibility of working with communities to implement preventative health initiatives, promote health and well-being and conduct early screening for health issues as well as to respond to public health threats. Rural residents are in desperate need of basic health and other services; we must devise strategies to ensure that all New Mexico residents have access to primary care providers and emergency services.

I am often asked whether I support a single payer health system. My answer is yes. To ensure maximum economies of scale, the better approach is a national single payer system. However, given the lack of leadership on this issue at the national level, I support moving toward such a system on the state level. As a first step I endorse recent New Mexico House and Senate Memorials calling for a study of ways to increase access to Medicaid. Medicaid and Medicare are successful programs that we can build into a single-payer system.

It is obvious that uniform access to health care and health security across geographic and socio-economic barriers is a complex issue with few easy fixes. Crafting successful legislative solutions to this problem will require focused leadership, a broad view, and intense collaboration among the various interests.