Locals voice health care concerns

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom New Mexico

PORTALES — Norma Rey Vazquez de Houdek does not advocate gun control. That is a political issue. She is concerned about the people issue. New Mexico ranks fourth in the nation for teen suicides, losing one person a day.

“When we live in a state that is so diverse, like New Mexico, guns are a part of our culture, especially with hunting,” said Vazquez de Houdek, a youth suicide prevention coordinator with the New Mexico Department of Health. “I do not advocate gun control. What I say is, ‘If you own a gun, most adolescents know how to gain access to it, and so if you have a person in your household that is depressed or has a substance abuse problem, remove the guns or bullets, or lock them.”

Teen suicide emerged as one of several major local concerns on Thursday during the first of eight regional New Mexico State Comprehensive Strategic Health Plan meetings. State officials are gathering input for the governor’s strategic health plan, which will be updated this year.

Most of the roughly 30 attendees at the day-long meeting at the Memorial Building worked in health in health care-related agencies in Roosevelt, Curry, Lea and Eddy counties.

Information gathered from the meetings will be released Sept. 1.

Teen pregnancy was also a major issue. Curry County ranks fourth in the state in teen births.

Other issues addressed were healthcare coverage when crossing state or country lines, communication between emergency care entities, childhood obesity, behavior and environmental problems, long-term healthcare and health insurance coverage overall.