Last week, BHECN team members Dr. Howard Liu, Amy Holmes, and Ann Kraft traveled to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to visit the Center for Rural and Community Behavioral Health (CRCBH). They met with various professionals from this organization to learn more about their 50+ programs that serve the State of New Mexico.
So why visit New Mexico? Turns out New Mexico and Nebraska are quite similar. New Mexico has a population of 2 million people, while Nebraska has a population of 1.9 million. Like Nebraska, most of New Mexico is rural with a high concentration of the population in a few urban centers. Because New Mexican’s face many of the same challenges that Nebraskan’s face, BHECN can learn a lot from this program and adopt practices to recruit, retain and train behavioral health professionals. We hope to expand our rural residency program, our retention efforts and our work with Nebraska’s underserved populations. Our partners in New Mexico have graciously shared information and time with us, so that we can learn and benefit from their 20+ years of experience in developing their behavioral health workforce.
One program that we found particularly interesting is the Health Extension Rural Outreach or the “HERO” program. CRCBH has partnered with New Mexico’s agricultural Cooperative Extension offices to address health in rural New Mexico. CRCBH observed the Cooperative Extension offices work to improve the health of farm families through 4-H programs and by helping farm families increase their income levels and farm production. Following the Extension model, CRCBH developed “Health Extension” agents and has deployed the agents all across the state of New Mexico. These agents, or HEROs, are well rooted leaders in their own communities. All have at least a masters level degree in a health care field. They work on various social determinants that impact health, such as isolation, food insecurity and lack of education.
BHECN will continue to work with our friends in New Mexico as we build and expand our programs. This partnership provides a great opportunity for BHECN to develop and implement evidence based programming while consulting with skilled professionals. We will keep you updated as we grow this partnership.