New FCCH clinic open for business

........................................................................................................................................................................................

To mark 40 years of service in the state and the opening of a new health care clinic in Valencia County, county commissioners unanimously passed a proclamation declaring Sept. 9 through 15 “First Choice Community Healthcare Week.”

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: The new First Choice Community Healthcare facility in Los Lunas opened its doors for business Monday, Sept. 10. The 22,000 square-foot facility is located behind the Los Lunas Municipal Complex at 145 Don Pasqual Road. A grand opening with an open house is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 29. Funding for the project was a federal grant through the new Affordable Healthcare Act passed last March.

Bob DeFelice, chief executive officer of FCCH, told the commissioners that First Choice has been providing primary care for more than 25 years to the citizens of Valencia County through its locations in Los Lunas and Belen.

Now, the nonprofit is in the final stages of completing a new 22,000 square-foot medical, dental and behavioral health facility in Los Lunas on Don Pasqual.

“This will double our capacity in Los Lunas,” DeFelice said. “We are also expanding Belen. We are moving the dental operations down there up to Los Lunas, which will increase the medical space in Belen.

“That will double the (medical) capacity in Belen as well. We are more than doubling our capacity to provide primary care access to the citizens of Valencia County.”

The new Los Lunas facility opened on Monday, and a celebratory ribbon cutting will be held on Sept. 29, DeFelice said.

“I want to thank the commission for its continuing support,” he said. In 2009, the commissioners submitted a letter of support on behalf of FCCH for funding of the new building.

Dr. Mark Evanko, the clinical director for the Los Lunas facility, said he was very, very proud of having served with FCCH and Lovelace.

“I assure you, I have never offered better care to patients than when I was working with this organization,” Evanko said. “I am very proud to work with them and will continue to serve this community with honor and duty.”

The proclamation honoring First Choice was approved after a presentation by Presbyterian Healthcare Services’ President and CEO Jim Hinton.

Evanko said a goal stated by Hinton, that of moving Presbyterian’s health care efforts toward primary care, is something First Choice has made a primary function.

“We are leaders in the new concept of a patient centered medical home. I sit on a couple different commissions that are exploring reinventing the thing that is supposed be done for patients anyway, which is the patient should be the center of the health care system,” Evanko said. “First Choice has been doing that all along. The things we will be transferring to the new facility are quality measures we’ve been doing and our core of care; measures that keep you alive longer and healthier longer — access to mental health, monitoring diabetes. Things First Choice does well because we are primary care.”

Calling this a “great day for Valencia County for primary care to continue,” FCCH board of directors President Paul Luna remembered when First Choice started operations in a store front

“Now we have this new facility,” Luna said. “I’ve been on this board for over 15 years and this is the best thing we’ve ever done. I live here. My sons live here. We want to provide quality care for the community.”

Commissioner Ron Gentry pointed out that First Choice’s improvements and continued operations was done without the help of taxpayer dollars.

DeFelice said the completion of the $8.2 million facility and subsequent shifting of dental services from Belen to Los Lunas would add 80 new employees between the two facilities.

Commissioner Mary Andersen said in Hinton’s presentation, he noted a serious lack of prenatal care in the county.

“Maybe there is not enough knowledge in the community about the services available here. Maybe they don’t realize what is here to help them,” Andersen said. “Can you broadcast that somehow?”

DeFelice said First Choice uses a “whole team approach that people can access.”

One of the big pushes for the new clinic is expansion of the nurse midwife program, Evanko said.

“We are going to have high risk OB fellows. Getting out in the community is something we really want to do,” the doctor said.

“I would ask you all for your help as well. If you have ideas I am more than happy to present anything I know about this issue. It is a huge issue in New Mexico.”

The new facility was built on state-leased land at the village of Los Lunas complex, just north of the village hall.

The current Los Lunas facility on N.M. 314 is more than 20 years old, and only 4,800 square feet.

The new facility north of the municipal complex will double the number of exam rooms from nine to 18, and provide space for 10 dental operators.

The new capacity will allow FCCH to serve 280,000 medical and primary care encounters annually and add 12,000 dental encounters a year.

In the 2008-09 fiscal year, FCCH provided services to more than 50,000 people who came for care more than 250,000 times.

The new facility will accept most insurances, and like other clinics in the FCCH network, will offer a sliding scale that takes a patient’s income and family size into consideration.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.