A new full-spectrum reproductive health clinic in Las Cruces is at least a few years away from becoming a reality, said Charlene Bencomo, executive director of Bold Futures.
Within months of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade through its Dobbs In late June, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a second reproductive executive order, committing $10 million to reproductive health clinics in Doña Ana County.Lujan Grisham’s press secretary, Nora Meyers Sackett, told reporters the commitment would appear in a capital spending bill for the 2023 legislative session NM Political Report.
Benkomo said the clinic, which will be based in Las Cruces, is still in the “fundraising phase.” Partly because the clinic aims to innovate in challenging healthcare norms, it’s hard to say how long it will take for the clinic to be fully operational, she said.
The partners behind the clinic — Bold Futures is one — want to “throw away what’s not working in the healthcare system and build something new,” she said.
The program formed an advisory board that included Bencomo, Adriann Barboa (on behalf of Powerful Families of New Mexico), Dr. Eve Espey (on behalf of the University of New Mexico Health and Science Center), Adrienne Mansanares (executive director of Planned Parenthood of the Rockies) and Gina Deblassie, health policy advisor to Lujan Grisham. The committee is called the Reproductive Health Success Project.
Planned Parenthood in the Rockies told NM Political Report In an email, it “is working closely with local partners in Las Cruces to envision and build this wellness center, and we plan to be involved in a meaningful way now and in the future.”
University of New Mexico says NM Political Report In an email, UNM Health and Health Sciences were among the entities collaborating at the clinic.
“Our role at this point has been to advise the state, but to our knowledge no decisions have been made regarding the operation or direction of the clinic. At this point, apart from advising in these early planning stages, UNM Health and Health Sciences does not have any official role,” UNM said.
Bencomo said some of the clinic’s priorities are that everyone, from the person who greets a patient through the door to the medical staff, will be trained in culturally sensitive, LGBTQ-sensitive care. She said issues such as personal pronouns and identity for individuals would be an important part of care. Health care outcomes for people of color are statistically worse than white people, and LGBTQ people are discriminated against in the health care system. “One of our core values is improving outcomes for Black, Indigenous, Latinx and LGBTQ people,” Bencomo said.
“We’re really focused on making sure everyone belongs in this health care center,” Benkomo said.
Bencomo said the current plan is for the clinic to also serve as a training facility for new medical staff. How much abortion care the center will be able to provide — whether medical or procedural — is unclear, she said. The advisory committee has not yet estimated how many patients the clinic will be able to serve, she said.
Bencomo said the current discussion is about how to build a clinic that can provide care where there are gaps in insurance and Medicaid coverage. Clinics are structured to seek private and foundation funding to fill some of these gaps, she said.
She said discussions about creating a clinic started before the court overturned it Roe v Wade, leading abortion providers to view New Mexico as a safe haven state for abortions. Patients from Texas in particular have overwhelmed New Mexico’s abortion clinic system, despite opening new abortion clinics last year.
The fact that the new clinic might welcome patients from Texas is a “bonus,” Bencomo said. But she said the main reason for opening the clinic is the long wait time for people living in New Mexico to get reproductive care. She cited long wait times for Pap smears as a persistent problem for patients in New Mexico.
“We want to be a role model for the rest of the state and the country because what we have right now is not working,” she said.