Here's to Your Health!
By Tim McGivern and Robin Brown
Just think, there are roughly 40 million citizens in America unable to afford health insurance. Meanwhile, if you fall into this category and have a job, your income taxes help provide the finest health care money can buy for members of Congress. So if you are uninsured and stressed out by the prospect of some unforeseen physical tragedy befalling you or your family and wrecking your finances forever, think about those public servants in Washington, D.C. who get a free ride, on your tax dollars, when they visit the doctor.
Why the indignation? Well, when we investigated health care resources in Albuquerque, the first lesson we learned was that there is enormous demand for services and a tight supply of public cash allocated to support the system. As a result, many of the services that are available are not widely publicized. That's just pitiful.
But all is not gloom and despair, since the low-wage earners and uninsured in Bernalillo County do have plenty of options for mental health, indigent care and other important services. But before you continue reading please note: The Alibi does not aim to be your medical advisor or ever intend to do your thinking for you when it comes to your personal health and financial well-being. We have simply compiled a directory we hope will be useful. Ultimately, you'll have to be savvy, sometimes gently forceful, and willing to take more individual responsibility to open the door for yourself if you are uninsured and seeking effective health care.
Lastly, there are many more services available than listed here, so feel free to ask around.
New Mexico Department of Health
This state agency operates various clinical offices throughout Albuquerque that focus on prevention. The offices provide free immunizations, free contraception, free STD testing and treatment and essential health resources for young families.
Perhaps most importantly, if you are uninsured, you can make an appointment at any one of their six local offices to see if you qualify for Medicaid. If you do, these benevolent bureaucrats will assist you in filing your application and then mail it to the state human services department for you. So step one: If you are uninsured, find out if you qualify for Medicaid. (While you are at it, they can also register you to vote—now that's service!)
Otherwise, each program has it's own eligibility criteria, and you might be charged on a sliding fee scale. The various offices do not provide the same services, so read the following carefully and always call first to make sure you aren't rushing off to the wrong place. Hours of operation for each office are the same: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mon-Fri.
Northeast Heights Health Office, 8120 La Mirada, near Montgomery and Wyoming, (332-4850). Provides free immunizations for children, runs the WIC (women, infants and children) nutrition program and offers free contraception such as condoms and emergency contraception pills. All service is by appointment only. They also give free flu shots to senior citizens and any one deemed high risk.
The nutrition program provides vouchers for cheese, cereal, eggs and the like to qualifying pregnant women and mothers of young children. Health officials encourage breast-feeding in the early months and will loan you a breast pump. “It's a one-stop service for young families—you can come in for shots, get a breast pump, get some formula and fill out an application for Medicaid,” an office employee said.
Southeast Heights Public Health Office, 7525 Zuni SE (841-8929). Services include screening to identify health and nutrition needs for women and children as well as vouchers for baby formula and other health foods. They also provide free immunizations for children without insurance or Medicaid, as well as refugee health screening and referrals.
North Valley Public Health Office, 7704 Second Street NW, (897-5700). Provides same services as Northeast Heights and Southeast Heights offices and also coordinates the Children's Medical Services program, where social workers connect special needs children with medical and social services.
Stanford Public Health Office, STD and Reproductive Health Center. 1111 Stanford Dr. NE (841-4180). If you notice some forlorn itching, burning or other form of discomfort of the privates, the first step to recovery starts with free, confidential STD testing and treatment right here. Needle exchange, free contraception and counseling referrals for drug abuse are also available. Stanford is also the hub for all infectious disease investigations and treatment.
South Valley Public Health Office, N. Centro Familiar SW, (873-7478). Provides family planning services, STD testing and treatment and TB testing. Must call ahead for appointment, but there are walk-ins for emergency contraception pills.
Also houses the Families First prenatal case management program, where social workers connect pregnant women with prenatal services. Harm reduction services include education and needle exchange for intravenous drug users as well as supplying food vouchers and referrals to counseling and treatment.
Westside Health Office (also called Alamosa or Southwest Valley) 6900 Gonzales, off Coors south of Central, (833-9950). No WIC service here. Focuses on family planning services, free immunizations and the Male Involvement Project—a pilot project focused on health and behavioral responsibility for young men. Also does STD testing and STD treatment.
Health Care for the Uninsured
Here's a little information for the uninsured survivalist that goes a long way: If you are not signed up for UNM Care, but head over to University Hospital emergency room one day for treatment, it will cost roughly $400 to $2,000 to be seen by a doctor. At any other city hospital, the bill will be even higher for the same type of care. First Choice (see below) will charge roughly $20-$100 for an emergency visit; CliniMed (see below) costs roughly $50 for a “consultation visit.” Lovelace or Presbyterian urgent care will charge a $150 up front fee. Ambulance service will cost between $400 and $600 in Bernalillo County.
With these costs in mind, the advice we were given from several local doctors was to call First Choice first. If they tell you no and it's early in the day, just show up and be polite and insistent. After 5 p.m. and on weekends, the only option is the ER for adults. However, UNM urgent care for kids lasts until midnight.
UNM Care (272-2521). The key word here is “qualify,” as in you are eligible for some form of indigent care at University Hospital based on what you learn after you have visited the hospital's business office. Call to make an appointment. It should be one-stop shop for anyone looking for financial assistance, and once you qualify, your health care, from primary physician to emergency coverage, should be available. UNMH can sign you up for Medicaid as well.
First Choice Family Health, 2001 N. Centro Familiar SW (873-7451). This clinic offers family doctors and a pediatrician to assist people without insurance. They accept Medicaid and Medicare, and for people without insurance they base charges on the patient's income. Six other area locations include Los Lunas (865-4618) and Belen (861-1013).
CliniMed, two locations, 1413 Eubank NE (275-1800), 6570 Fourth Street (345-3800). CliniMed contracts with HMOs as a primary care provider. They operate two “family practice walk-in medical care clinics,” so you don't need an appointment. “Consultation visit” starts at $52. You will see a nurse practitioner, not a doctor.
Health Care for the Homeless, 1217 First Street NW, 242-4644. HCH provides general family medical and dental treatment for homeless persons and people at risk of homelessness. Note: Multiple families living under one roof can be considered homeless. Call for more information on hours and a full list of services, all of which are generally free.
NM AIDS Services, 625 Truman NE, 938-7100. Offers comprehensive health management program for HIV positive persons, including housing assistance, dental care and prescription programs.
Mental Health Services
First Nations Health Source, 5608 Zuni Rd. SE, (262-2481). Offers a medical clinic, dental services, a behavioral health department, massage, traditional healing and AIDS services. The clinic offers discounts using patient's paycheck stubs to verify the amount of income. The behavioral health department (counseling) is offered to only Native Americans.
La Familia Inc., 707 Broadway NE Suite 103, (766-9361). Provides outpatient behavioral therapy, treatment foster care, adult services and adoptions. They work primarily with Medicaid, but do not offer discounts for people without insurance.
Outcomes Inc., 1503 University NE, 243-2551. Offers psychotherapy and counseling on a sliding fee scale, free senior peer groups, low-fee infant and toddler playgroups and parenting classes with available scholarships.
Un Nuevo Amanecer, 1600 First NW Suite 200, (224-9124). Provides services for substance abuse, domestic violence, drug screening, mental health services and has an intensive outpatient program. They work on a case by case basis and sometimes offer a sliding fee scale, but they generally work with Lovelace, Medicaid and the court systems as a contracted funding source for treatment.
Domestic Violence Family Counseling Program, 2130 San Mateo NE, (262-4324). Offers counseling services to victims of domestic violence and their perpetrators. Also offers a parenting substance abuse program and parenting classes.
Domestic Violence Hotline, (1-800-773-3645), seven days a week, 24 hours.
Enlace Communitario, 310 Valverde SE, (246-8972). Services include individual counseling, group therapy for women and children, parenting classes and advocacy and support for victims in the court system. Also provides immigration information and resources.
First Choice, South Valley Center (873-7451), Los Padillas Center (452-8633). Offers all aspects of general dentistry on a sliding fee scale with proof of income. Offers same day appointments for dental emergencies. Key tip from a seasoned veteran: Call ahead, get there early and plan for a whole day to get your dental done. It's first come, first served.
Community Dental, 2116 Hinkel SE, (843-7493). General dentistry available for adults and children, in addition to orthodontic care. NonMedicaid patients must qualify previous to setting an appointment.
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