LAS CRUCES – Four New Mexico organizations have partnered to establish a full-spectrum reproductive health care center in Doña Ana County, which is expected to be fully operational within the next two years.
The University of New Mexico Health and Science Center initiated the Reproductive Health Care Success Project (RHSP) in 2021, through which it surveyed the state for a location that would most benefit from access to a wide range of reproductive health care. Such care would include services such as contraceptive options, prenatal and postnatal care, lactation support, hormone treatment, infertility treatment, screening for sexually transmitted infections and cancer, miscarriage management, adoption education and resources, sex education along with medications and care for abortion procedures. .
The idea is to create a center based on the ideals of the surrounding community that is “culturally congruent, gender-affirming, trauma-informed and ready to serve all people,” according to a press release.
This project started long before roe v wade was struck down through the US Supreme Court’s decision this summer in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Charlene Bencomo, CEO of Bold Futures, explained that this work was prompted at the time by the potential reversal of Roe and the long-standing need to provide better access to care. Bold Futures is a nonprofit organization that “leads in policy change, research, place-based organizing, and cultural change by and for women and people of color in New Mexico,” according to its website.
Bold Futures became involved with the UNM project during the summer of 2021. Bencomo said they helped broaden community engagement, assessing various community members’ reactions to such a facility and what they expressed about the needs. of medical care.
“We were instrumental in recruiting people who are essential, along with Strong Families, and organizing virtual meetings,” said Bencomo. “Every week from September to December of last year, we held meetings with different community leaders. Everyone from mental health workers, doulas, midwives, OB/GYNs, queer and trans people, youth, people who work with youth in these communities.”
Strong Families New Mexico was also involved in the project, as was Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Bencomo said that Santa Fe, McKinley and Doña Ana counties were identified as three possible locations. She said the groups were initially looking at “what supports people had in accessing reproductive health care in these more rural communities and what challenges they faced as well.”
Ultimately, the four groups decided that Doña Ana County made the most sense for such a project.
“I am a person who was born and raised in Las Cruces. I’ve lived here most of my life, and I know it can be very difficult to access basic reproductive health care, including Pap tests, prenatal classes and information, breastfeeding support, all of these things you I’ve been through it in my own life,” Bencomo said. “There are a lot of things that people may need throughout their lives that fall into that category of reproductive health care, and one way or another, we’ve been so focused on abortion that that seems to dominate conversations.”
At this point, an advisory board of around 13 has been created to help move the project forward and lay the groundwork. Members include community leaders from local and surrounding areas who will work for approximately nine months to get started. On the agenda is establishing long-term funding to ensure the center is sustainable for many years, as well as finding a location for the center and electing a board of directors.
Bencomo said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already pledged $10 million for the center, though certain criteria must still be met before the money will exchange hands. Further funding opportunities are being explored.
The location is particularly important because one of the goals is to make the center accessible to people throughout Doña Ana County, as well as the surrounding areas. Language differences and disabilities are also part of accessibility considerations.
“We want to make sure that we are really strategic and intentional. It’s not just your average health center that opens doors,” Bencomo said. “We want this to look and feel and be a different experience for people, and that’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Bencomo said other needs include staffing, pinpointing exactly what services will be provided and other paperwork. There is no set timeline now for when the community can see this center up and running, but Bencomo said hopefully within the next one to two years.
Financial accessibility is another aspect of care being considered, appealing to as wide a population as possible with all kinds of abilities, financial or otherwise.
“Hopefully this can serve as a model for other areas, not just in our state but across the nation as we see many, many more restrictions not just for abortion care, but for contraception and who knows what else.” Bencomo said.
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Leah Romero is the Trends Reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached at 575-418-3442, LRomero@lcsun-news.com or @rromero_leah On twitter.