Professionally and personally, moving to Santa Fe in 2021 was perhaps the best silver lining to emerge for my family through the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges. The catalyst was my wife joining the board of directors of New Mexico’s first pediatric palliative care organization, Hero’s Path. Not long after, I began establishing a community mental health agency, the Center for Dynamic Practice, with the mission of providing affordable access to quality mental health care for all New Mexicans.
While most of life in New Mexico has exceeded expectations, it has been devastating to encounter the crisis New Mexicans face regarding access to care. A regular theme among friends, patients and colleagues has been the need for services here is staggering – common stories include suddenly learning their primary care provider is leaving the state, or attempting to schedule a specialist appointment and learning the wait time is six to nine months or more, if the practice is accepting new patients at all.
Adding to the challenges New Mexicans face, health care practitioners have for decades been leaving the state faster than doctors such as myself are moving here or being trained – 32 of our 33 counties lack the medical professionals necessary to meet basic needs.
In mental health practice, such out-of-state tech companies as BetterHelp and CareDash have been filling the gap created by our state’s refusal to support psychologists seeking to expand reach to those in need. Several class-action lawsuits against these companies allege intentionally misleading information and profound incompetence, negligence and even abuse by therapists with unclear qualifications or experience. Yet, despite New Mexico having one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, it is still illegal for a psychologist in Tucson or Tulsa to consult with an individual in Taos or Tucumcari without going through the complex, lengthy process of New Mexico licensure.
One solution to address these disparities that is gaining traction nationwide is interstate compacts allowing clinicians to meet the needs of their patients beyond state lines. In psychology, this is known as PSYPACT – a coalition of 32 states currently, many of which have large, underserved rural areas. This coalition has agreed to allow telepsychology practice by psychologists between any of these jurisdictions. All other Southwestern states are already members.
New Mexico not being part of this compact is also of pressing concern for our military population and Department of Defense contractors. With so many other states allowing these accommodations for the transient nature of military life, it bodes poorly for New Mexico not to catch up and provide options for maintaining multi-state licensure for members of the military and their spouses.
While the compacts aren’t perfect, they are the best and only immediate solution available. I am so grateful to Rep. Marian Matthews, D-Albuquerque, for her vision and responsibility to constituents across our state in reintroducing legislation that would include New Mexico in this multi-state compact. Please reach out to your local state senator to let them know your opinion on this issue.
This hindrance to care is an urgent issue that must be addressed. Far too many New Mexicans are suffering needlessly for lack of services that are available only beyond the state line.
Ben Greenberg maintains a private telehealth practice in Santa Fe.