Tag Archives: Advocacy

NMHU Macro Social Work

It’s wonderful to find that Highlands is offering such a useful and needed graduate degree right here in the state capitol. I know there is a need for this kind of education considering all the state agencies, and nonprofits in the area. I didn’t finish Highlands with the highest regard due to issues with administration, but this move begins to make me proud and hopeful as an alum. I only wish this happened earlier and that I knew of it earlier so I could help share the news.

Way to go Highlands in addressing both student and community need!

Highlands Offers New Graduate Social Work Program in Santa Fe


Las Vegas, N.M. – Highlands University’s new graduate social work program in Santa Fe will prepare its graduates to design and manage programs in social services, mental health and health.

Applications are being accepted for the first graduate social work program in Santa Fe: a community leadership concentration designed to better serve the community.

“In sampling our Santa Fe undergraduate social work students as well as Santa Fe social workers, we learned that they are hungry for an opportunity to advance their education so they can contribute as community program developers, political and community organizers, and policy creators and analysts,” said Andrew Israel, interim dean of the Facundo Valdez School of Social Work at Highlands.

Israel said there are acute social needs in the Santa Fe area related to poverty and substance abuse that make the demand very high for this kind of work.

He said the concentration in community leadership gives social workers a chance to be a voice for positive change.

“The community leadership concentration aims to prepare its graduates to become community advocates, create and manage health and human service programs, write grants and much more,” Israel said. “This community leadership concentration reflects an age-old calling social workers have for social justice issues, which includes evaluating social service and mental health needs at a community level and designing responsive programs.”

The graduate social work program will be offered at the Highlands Santa Fe Center in the Santa Fe Higher Education Center at 1950 Siringo Road.

“Our undergraduate social work students in Santa Fe want to spearhead social advocacy and have expressed very strong interest in this graduate program, advocating for it themselves,” said Thomasinia Ortiz-Gallegos, Highlands Santa Fe Center director. “Applications and inquiries are already coming in.”

There are 20 slots in the program for its first year, which begins fall semester 2016. The application deadline is July 29, with applications available online at www.nmhu.edu/socialwork/ Early registration for fall 2016 begins April 4.

Israel said the needs assessment survey designed by Highlands Santa Fe social work professor Rob Deacon identified a strong desire for a graduate program that would help meet community needs. The average age of people participating in the survey was 36.

“This means we have experienced community professionals who want to increase their employment potential by getting a master’s degree,” Israel said. “We want to meet the educational needs of these mature students who want to advance their careers and ability to earn more.”

Israel said one goal of the new program is to made it as convenient as possible for these working students to complete their graduate social work studies without leaving Santa Fe. Classes will be offered in the late afternoon and evenings, with traditional classroom instruction as well as online courses.

He said another advantage of the new graduate social work program is that Santa Fe area students with bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, psychology, sociology and other disciplines can be admitted.

Ortiz-Gallegos said the Highlands Santa Fe Center staff is dedicated to its students.

“We are extremely committed to guiding our student in their academic journey so they fulfill their educational aspirations. The majority of our students work full time and are highly focused learners juggling multiple responsibilities. We are here to help however we can,” Ortiz-Gallegos said.


Expanded Medicaid to Restrict Psychiatric Medication?

Update: It is apparent that this is in fact still happening and expanding to more patients and more programs. That they have decided to expand this national dereliction of duty and institutionalized malpractice to Medicaid is born out by the concerns expressed in the New York Times article Plan to Limit Some Drugs in Medicare Is Criticized

Leaders of numerous patient advocacy groups said they were worried that patients could be harmed if the policy changed.

“The proposal undermines a key protection for some of the sickest, most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries,” said Andrew Sperling, a lobbyist at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Under the proposal, Mr. Sperling said, a Medicare drug plan could have a list of preferred drugs with just two medications to treat schizophrenia. That is inadequate, he said, because antipsychotic drugs work in different ways in the body, and have different side effects. “You get much better outcomes when a doctor can work with patients to figure out which medications will work best for them,” he said.

As I had stated originally, I have been receiving disturbing reports regarding New Mexico Centennial Care’s disastrous roll out. I am prompted to share some of these issues due to a dire situation that appears to be a national Medicaid policy that I recently learned of. I have my own experiences with the so called “Medicaid Expansion” to share, but first the alarming situation of restricting psychiatric medications for those who need them.

Mental health has been in the national news a lot lately with all the mass shootings at schools and other public places. New Mexico made the list with the Berrendo Middle School shooting in Roswell. The nightly news is full of domestic violence, homicides, and other violent crimes. Perfect timing for restricting psychiatric medications. Since my original write up, New Mexico has received national attention for the “U.S. Department of Justice finding that the Albuquerque Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” – koat.com

Encounters between Albuquerque police officers and persons with mental illness and in crisis too frequently result in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary. The DOJ said the problems dealing with mental health is a failure of the entire community and needs to be addressed. – koat.com

What is so concerning in light of all this is that I am hearing direct patient reports that over the past month (January/February), a majority of psychiatric patients have been required to get a pre-authorization  in order to receive their medications. Many patients are going without medication as this process can sometimes take weeks. The entity that is reportedly enacting this practice is Presbyterian Health Plan, Inc. (see the Drugs Requiring Prior Authorization, and the What if my drug is not covered? pdfs, under the Prescription Drug Benefits section at that link. Those are the documents that are being used to restrict psychiatric medications from many New Mexicans in need).

Presbyterian Health Plan, Inc. has set up a system where insurance providers are effectively prescribing alternate medications to patients without seeing the patient or consulting with the patient’s physician. What is happening is that doctors are prescribing medications and if those are not on an approved list, the medicine is not covered and the patient is left to either take a medication that does not work for them and that their doctor has not prescribed, obtain the money for expensive medications on limited income, or go without.

This situation is based on eyewitness reports. Updates will be posted as they arise.

When is it ever a good idea to restrict psychiatric medication from patients in need?


Agave Health, Inc.

Expanding Health Coverage for Low Income Adults: The Medicaid Opportunity under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Koat News

New Mexico Centennial Care

Plan to Limit Some Drugs in Medicare Is Criticized

Presbyterian Health Plan, Inc.