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Mill-levy behavioral, emergency care in planning stage

UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Increased emergency and behavioral health services are going through the planning stages at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

In November, Sandoval County voters approved a property tax increase of $63 per $100,000 of taxable value for eight years to pay for making SRMC a Level 3 trauma center, and providing outpatient mental health care at the hospital and crisis intervention in the community, working alongside first responders.

“It’s going to be a process,” said Pam Demarest, SRMC chief operating officer and chief nursing officer.

She and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robb McLean are guiding the effort to institute the new services.

Demarest said three planning groups — one each for the Level 3 trauma program, behavioral health care at the hospital primary-care clinic and crisis intervention partnering with Rio Rancho Police Department — are meeting to determine the type of personnel, equipment and space needed for each service. There’s no timeline for implementation.

“It’s really too early to say,” Demarest said of the timing.

The hospital needs a year of data on trauma care to apply for Level 3 accreditation. Demarest said SRMC would start providing the higher level of treatment and collecting data in 2020 and apply for accreditation in 2021.

With crisis intervention, behaviorists would need to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The program is starting at RRPD, but can expand.

“Actually, we’ll work with any first responders,” Demarest said.

For the mental health care at SRMC, she said the clinic would need social workers and case managers to offer help to people with substance-abuse problems.

“It’s pretty preliminary right now, so it’s just a work in progress,” she said.