Taos County and Holy Cross work to improve addiction treatment

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 2/22/19

Representatives from the Taos health and business community gathered at Holy Cross Hospital this week to provide feedback regarding what has worked and what can be improved as Holy Cross Hospital …

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Taos County and Holy Cross work to improve addiction treatment

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Representatives from the Taos health and business community gathered at Holy Cross Hospital this week to provide feedback regarding what has worked and what can be improved as Holy Cross Hospital looks to firm up its strategic plan this year.

While the hospital’s outstanding accounts receivable, which remains at roughly $9 million, remained a concern for those in attendance at a prior meeting Tuesday evening (Feb. 19), along with the possibility of a deepening mill levy allotment for the hospital, surveys and input so far have centered primarily around enhancing treatment services for county residents struggling with substance abuse.

Town of Taos Counselor Fritz Hahn and representatives from Taos Alive, a local anti-drug and alcohol coalition, all acknowledged at the meeting the excessive burden placed on the hospital given a lack of proper treatment services in the county.

Since the former detox center located near the hospital, which was run by the now defunct Tri-County Community Services, closed in 2015, people struggling with substance abuse problems have often been taken to the hospital’s emergency room – or the county jail – due to a lack of other options.

But according to Hahn, some of that burden may soon be lifted as the town of Taos continues to work on a plan to establish a “continuum of care,” a term used to refer to treatment services that often include detox and residential treatment, within county limits.

Valle del Sol, one of the few remaining behavioral health providers remaining in Taos, which absorbed many of Tri-County services and clients after it closed last year, is to play a key role in that process, he said.

But Valle’s current location across from Enos Garcia Elementary School has slowed the process down. According Renee Edwards, Valle’s chief executive officer, some people in the surrounding area and at the school expressed concern about the organization’s mental health population being so close to young students.

While he did not respond to an email asking for an update as of press time Wednesday, Town Manager Rick Bellis has said previously that Valle will likely move to the old detox center location near the hospital. Hahn said at Tuesday’s meeting that some of Valle’s services will likely remain at its current location across from Enos, but the second location will serve as a central intake for substance abuse clients.

One critical, missing piece of treatment in Taos County has been a residential treatment center that accepts public health insurance. Hahn said that Shadow Mountain Recovery Center, a residential treatment center located in the mountains east of Taos that for years only accepted private insurance carriers, is working to accept public insurance.

Manny Nsien, chief operating officer at Shadow Mountain, said the organization has obtained its licensure for its Taos location and another in Albuquerque, but still needs final approval from the state.

“We get hundreds of calls a week from patients who need help,” Nsien said. “We’re really excited about having the ability to help people in the community.”

When that is made possible, Hahn said the hospital, Valle and Shadow Mountain together would form the foundation of a level of service for addicts in Taos County that hasn’t been seen in years.

He said care for an addict would begin at the hospital, where they would receive blood work. Then they would be transferred to Valle at its planned new location nearby for counseling and a referral to either Shadow Mountain or Hoy Recovery in Española, which can offer long-term treatment that is often critical for addicts who, for example, may be working to withdraw from opioid abuse.

Theresa Lewis, a consultant with Quorum Health Services, which contracted with the hospital to help formulate the strategy, said input taken from the community will become part of a final report presented to the hospital’s board before year’s end.

“We will take input we’ve received and will go to our stakeholders to do implementation planning,” Lewis said on Tuesday evening, adding that a final presentation may be ready by June.

Bill Patten also said this week that former Holy Cross Chief Financial Officer Steve Rozenboom has stepped down from his position due to a recent cancer diagnosis. While Rozenboom will continue to provide support on finances and special projects, an interim CFO, Shea Brock, who has experience in for-profit health care, will fill the larger role on an interim basis.

In an announcement Feb.19, Rozenboom said that the hospital paid off a line of credit with Centinel Bank that had helped them as they struggled financially last year. He added that the hospital’s designation as a critical access hospital has also reduced financial losses from Medicare.

“We have come a long way,” said Rozenboom, in a statement. “We still have more work to do in securing the financial future of Holy Cross, but we have made great strides this past year.”

As part of its strategic plan this year, Patten also announced that Holy Cross Hospital has renamed itself Holy Cross Medical Center while Taos Health Systems will remain the legal name of the hospital’s corporation.

Patten said the change is part of a rebranding strategy that will have no impact on services the hospital currently offers.

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