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Center relaunches inpatient treatment program

Jose Gurrola, hospital administrator for the New Mexico Rehabilitation Center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The region has an additional tool in its efforts to help people overcome their addictions to alcohol and other chemical substances.

The New Mexico Rehabilitation Center has re-instituted its 28-day inpatient substance abuse treatment program, said Jose Gurrola, administrator of the facility for about 14 months.

Gurrola said the inpatient treatment option began again in July and has 16 beds available.

“The NMRC has continually offered substance abuse programming here in this facility,” said Gurrola, a Roswell native who holds a master’s degree in heath care administration.

He explained that the inpatient treatment option is only part of a ladder of addiction treatment services available at the state-administered center, part of the New Mexico Department of Health and a “Gold Standard” care facility as determined by the Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation. It is located on Gail Harris Street near Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.

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In addition to the inpatient program, the center also offers a four- to seven-day residential medical detox program for those who are still using drugs or going through withdrawal from the chemicals, the only program of its kind within about 200 miles, and it has a 16-week intensive outpatient treatment program. The amount of time someone spends in those programs can be lengthened if care providers deem that necessary, Gurrola said.

Medical detox and the outpatient programs have proven effective through evidence-based models on a national level, Gurrola said, so they had been top priorities for the center during the past few years. But the Department of Health and the center decided that the inpatient program was a needed and useful component of the equation, so it made the decision to relaunch it.

The inpatient program is the only one within about 90 miles and is for those who are sober but in need of intense, eight to nine hours a day of counseling, educational offerings and medical treatment so that they can return to their normal routines without returning to drugs.

“There they can receive education, further treatment options, case management services about where they can receive services next — psychologists, psychiatrists, other care of their choice,” he said. “Making sure they receive that care is part of our program.”

Gurrola said that the center’s doctors, nurses and counselors see patients addicted to a number of chemicals, including alcohol, opioids and heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine.

The southeast region of New Mexico has fairly high levels of alcohol and illicit drug dependency, according to a 2017 substance abuse epidemiology profile by the Department of Health that presents data collected from several sources. According to the state report, 6 percent of the population ages 18 to 25 indicated experiencing illicit drug abuse or dependency from 2012 to 2014, while 12.2 percent of that age group responded that they had abused or become dependent on alcohol. The report also indicated that Chaves County had an alcohol-related death rate of 5.9 per 100,000 population from 2011 to 2014 and an illicit drug death rate of 22.1 during the same period.

Gurrola said the center’s programs are all voluntary, and patients must go through intake to determine which level of care is appropriate to them. For that reason, hospitals, not the center, are the place for people experiencing a crisis at night, threatening suicide or otherwise in need of immediate care, Gurrola said.

People must choose treatment for themselves, but they often are urged to seek help by courts, probation officers, care providers, social workers, homeless shelters or concerned family and friends.

“We are considered a starting step in a person’s sobriety,” he said. “As a community, our local hospital, our local providers and other agencies in our community, it is really our responsibility to come together to treat these people.”

Jeneva Martinez of the Roswell Homeless Coalition said she considers the center a great partner to address community and individual problems.

“It’s a valuable and useful resource for the type of population that we serve,” she said, “because there are some people that experience substance abuse. We aren’t staffed with people having medical backgrounds, so it is important that people have somewhere they can go for medical detox and treatment so that they come into the shelters clean and sober and ready to deal with their problems.”

Medical detox and inpatient care costs $650 to $670 a day. Outpatient treatment, which is normally three hours a day, three times a week, is about $60 a day. The medical detox program is covered by Medicaid, Medicare and most private insurance plans. The outpatient treatment is covered by Medicare and private insurance. Inpatient is covered only by private insurance now, although the Rehabilitation Center can sometimes offer other financial assistance to patients in need.

Gurrola said the industry expects federal legislation to be considered in early 2019 that would authorize Medicaid and Medicare coverage for inpatient treatment as well.

Gurrola said the need in the community is clear. The center has treated 224 patients in its medical detox program during the past two years and 500 patients in the outpatient programming during the past four years.

Staff make it a point to follow up with patients to monitor progress, he said, and have found that in 2018 only seven former detox patients returned for more treatment during the year and only about 43 outpatient clients. The chemical dependency program also is rated well by patients, with a recent quarterly survey finding that 94 percent were satisfied with their treatment.

The center, which has grown in revenues from $1.6 million in fiscal year 2017 to $3.9 million for fiscal year 2018, also has a medical rehabilitation unit with 15 beds to treat people who have experienced strokes, brain injuries or severe physical injuries due to illness or accidents. Patients can receive physical and speech therapy, along with medical care, with the goal that they will be discharged able to care for themselves or without needing such intense care. An outpatient component of that unit is expected to reopen in early 2019.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.