While Paula Oxoby-Hayett explains how to prevent the onset of diabetes, and offers tips on simple exercises and food choices, the small crowd gathered at El Centro Family Health is busy taking notes. Some ask questions about community services. Oxoby-Hayett seems to have answers for all.
She is the health programs manager for the Taos, Embudo and Peñasco clinics.
“I am part of an amazing health care team that includes front desk staff, providers, nurses and behavioral health providers,” she said. “We all work together, with the patient at the center of the team.”
Her job is to provide health education to the patients and connect them with resources they may not be aware of. The fact that Oxoby-Hayett is fully bilingual (she was born in Argentina) makes it easier for her to reach a bigger segment of the population.
“I really enjoy working with people,” she said. “Together we explore health-related goals and the barriers that prevent them from achieving these goals.”
Another member of the team is Catherine Medina – a community health worker with vast experience in case management.
“I help people with transportation problems, housing and insurance paperwork and many other issues,” she said. “I love being able to connect them with the resources that they need. This is a very satisfying job.”
Inside the clinic
El Centro offers primary care services as well as behavioral health and health education. Dental services are also available in its Peñasco and Española clinics.
In Taos, El Centro has six medical providers, five nurses, two behavioral health professionals and two health programs employees.
Oxoby-Hayett recommends that patients make appointments a few days in advance; however, they always have slots for walk-ins on their schedule.
“We understand sometimes people need to be seen right away,” she said. “That’s no problem at all.”
Services and fees
El Centro provides services to all residents of Northern New Mexico, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Utilizing a sliding fee scale, patients are assessed based on income and family size to determine a fair adjustment if they need to pay a fee for the service,” Oxoby-Hayett said. “But no one is turned away.”
All health education services are provided free of charge.
“Patients can meet with health program staff and discuss ways we can support them,” Oxoby-Hayett said. “Our appointments are up to an hour long and we assist patients with goal-setting, education, finding community resources and other topics.”
The clinic currently has a grant that allows them to provide mammograms and pap smears at no cost to patients who don’t have insurance.
“We also use existing community resources to provide as many free services as we can,” Oxoby-Hayett said. “We are proud to say we have staff who are trained to enroll patients in health insurance. People with no insurance can also benefit from our sliding scale.”
Tana Beverwyk-Abouda is the associate director of health programs at El Centro. The health programs department is made up of community health workers and health educators who help patients achieve the lifestyle changes recommended by medical, behavioral health and dental providers in the clinics.
“We help patients do what the doctors ask them to do — relax, lose weight, stop smoking, reduce cholesterol, take medication correctly, etc.,” said Beverwyk-Abouda. “Through lifestyle changes and the building of positive social support we see amazing changes in the health of our patients and our community. El Centro functions as a true team: the front desk, nurse, doctor, physician’s assistant, therapist, pharmacist and others truly work together for the benefit of the health of each patient.”
Semillas de Salud
Semillas de Salud is a program created to address the problem of health professional shortages in the state. It focuses on youth workforce development to support a “recruiting pipeline” in New Mexico. If school-age children or teenagers are interested in a career in health, the program nurtures their vocation. They also work with health professional students in need of clinical experience.
“Right now, we offer the Semillas Club at Taos Middle School where El Centro has a clinic for students and teachers,” Oxoby-Hayett said. “The Semillas de Salud participants are ‘Little Ambassadors’ who conduct peer presentations and help us during our presentations for the rest of the school. We invite professionals from the community to share their experiences in the field and encourage kids to continue in the healthcare path.”
They have a presence at Taos High School, as well.
“We work together with health teachers to bring in presentations for the students,” Oxoby-Hayett said. “This year, a big part of our work is going to be around suicide prevention.”
Classes, looking ahead
On Sept. 2 the clinic started the “My Chronic Disease,” self-management workshop. It is a free, six-week program that supports patients suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, depression and chronic pain. The classes are held at El Centro, 1-3:30 p.m., Thursdays.
On Sept. 9 they will host a “retinopathy event” at the clinic.
“We will offer retinopathy exams,” Oxoby-Hayett said. “This is an eye exam specifically designed for diabetic patients who should have it done yearly.”
Want to join El Centro?
El Centro is looking to expand their team. There is an opening for a community health worker who speaks fluent Spanish. The position is posted on their website at ecfh.org.