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La Casa provides health care opportunities for everyone

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La Casa behavioral health center, 110 E. Mescalero Road, celebrated National Health Center Celebration Week, Wednesday. Iva Amaro is shown here talking with Kim Buckmister, Iveth Ortiz and Mia Ortiz at the New Mexico Department of Health booth. (Curtis Michaels Photo)

La Casa Family Health Center’s CEO, Seferino Montaño, was in Roswell for a celebration at the organization’s behavioral health clinic at 110 E. Mescalero Road, Wednesday, from 4 to 7 p.m.

“We’re having a national health center celebration week,” Montaño said. “It’s a national celebration for all community health centers across the country. Community health centers across the nation serve 25 million people. That’s 25 million patients we serve in primary care, dental, behavioral health; of course primary care includes pediatrics and OB-GYN, so we do the whole spectrum of care for our patients.”
Montaño said La Casa has been around more than 40 years.
“La Casa has been in operation since 1976,” he said. “We started in Portales in a small, two-bedroom house with a grant from the Campaign for Human Development. In August of 1977 we received our first grant from the Department of Health Education and Welfare, which is now the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Over the years, they’ve spread their services out to meet a greater need.
“We expanded from Portales to Clovis to Roswell to Hondo,” Montaño said. “Including our school-based activities such as dental screening and our four medical clinics in schools, we have 27 delivery sites. We have a staff of 165 employees.
“We added Roswell’s behavioral health about three years ago when Turquoise Health and Wellness went out of business. We’ve been gradually building this place back up because everybody had left. We had to rebuild our staff. Marti Everitt, our administrator, has done an excellent job of putting everything together.”
Montaño’s pleased with all they have to offer Roswell.
“We’re really proud of the work we do in Roswell,” he said. “We have the behavioral health on Mescalero, we have the psychosocial rehab, we have Los Niños pediatrics on Wilshire and we have the south clinic on Grand Street. On campus, we have a medical clinic for the students and we also have dental. Patients in Roswell have access to all these services.”
Their services are not limited to a specific category of patient.
“Anyone can come to us,” Montaño said. “If you’re wealthy or you’re poor. Obviously, our mission is to provide access to the medically underserved population. We do get a lot of people who don’t have insurance. For those people we have a sliding fee scale, which we charge them based on their income and ability to pay. Also they use the size of family to determine what scale they fall into. For those who fall into poverty or below the poverty line there’s a nominal fee there. In those cases we sometimes end up writing it off because they simply don’t have the means to pay.”
Their pharmacy program is available to everyone.
“We assist with medications,” Montaño said. “We have a contract with Walgreen’s through our 340B pharmacy program. Any of our patients can go to Walgreen’s and get their medications. That includes the insured, uninsured, Medicare and Medicaid patients. That program is really invaluable to addressing the needs of people and the diseases that they may have.”

A unique program they offer is proving quite useful.
“We have La Promotora,” Montaño said, “(which includes) individuals, most of whom have a degree in social work and are going into master’s degree programs. They are assigned a lot of tasks. If the doctor needs to reach out to a patient who hasn’t been in, because they need a lab test or if we call them and their phone is disconnected, we send these outreach workers out to their homes.
“We also do case management on some of the patients that we have. We try to work with the MCO’s, the Managed Care Organizations that handle Medicaid, to prevent them from having to be readmitted. We try to prevent them having to go to the emergency room by following up, making sure they’re taking their meds, making sure they’re getting their blood screenings or whatever followup work needs to be done.
“This really enhances the overall care and patients tend to do well. At first, patients were skeptical, but now they’re beginning to accept it. That’s good because in the end it does well because they don’t have to be readmitted. A lot of times readmission is a result of not following through with medications or diet, exercise and such.”
La Casa tries to help patients get the coverage they need.
“We are also involved in the re-enrollment of the Affordable Care Act marketplace,” Montaño said, “and we help a lot of people to get on the expanded Medicaid program.”
They also work with the state on infant safety.
“We have the infant car seat program,” he said. “Our employees are trained how to install and use them properly. The state provides free car seats under that program.”
Montaño said none of this would have been possible without all the support they’ve received from Roswell and Chaves County.
“Roswell has been a good experience for us,” he said. Before we started here, a gentleman wanted to meet with the director. He came in and I recall he was a tall guy. He said, ‘I want a clinic like yours in Roswell.’ I said, ‘That’s good. But it’s not that easy to do.’ He said, ‘What do I have to do to help you get it started?’ I told him, ‘First of all, we have to meet with community people that are interested in having a clinic in Roswell.’ He said, ‘I will go back and get a group of people together and I will call you.’ Within a week he called and said they were ready. That was the beginning of our being in Roswell.
“I want to thank the county commission, the city council and our vendors. They have been invaluable in helping us. Today, a lot of our vendors donated a lot of things to give away. The county commission has always provided assistance with indigent care, the city has been involved in helping us maintain and pay the lease on this building. We’re really appreciative of the county and the city and the community at large that helped us.”
Montaño said he loves his job.
“We get to do God’s work,” he said. “There’s not a day that I don’t love to come to work. We do good things.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.