November 16, 2005

Contact: Cindy Foster (505) 272-0260;Courtney Smith (505) 272-3690

Do you know the feeling when it's three in the morning, she's sick and there's nowhere to call? There is now hope on the other end of the line. The Coordinated Systems of Care Community Access Program of New Mexico (CSC CAP-NM) recently received $500,000 in start up funds from the New Mexico Department of Health to establish a 24-hour confidential and professional healthcare triage and advice line beginning in April 2006 -- the first of its kind in the nation.

This public-private collaboration of the major Salud! Healthcare systems of New Mexico, includes the UNM Family and Community Medicine Department within the UNM School of Medicine, New Mexico Department of Health, and New Mexico HSD/Medicaid program. The strategy and business plan for the health advice line was developed under the direction of Dale Anderson, MD, senior vice president and executive medical director for Presbyterian Medical Group and Fornessa Randal, director, Office of Special Projects in UNM Family and Community Medicine.

"In a state with limited resources, this is exactly the type of partnership the University of New Mexico is seeking to forge," said UNM President Louis Caldera. "When the 24-hour advice line is activated, it will not only reduce costly emergency room visits, but will extend professional telephone advice to the uninsured and those living in isolated, rural communities throughout New Mexico."

Until now there has never been a central system that provided New Mexicans with health information. "Research is showing that such care, on a state-wide level, can reduce the number of emergency visits and costs," said Arthur Kaufman, M.D., chair of the UNM School of Medicine Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Cheryl A. Lopez, RN, MBA, newly appointed executive director of the line, from the New Mexico Primary Care Association added, "An additional value is that the line will help retain rural physicians by relieving night call and will assist the N.M. Department of Health by serving as an early warning of illness patterns in the State."

As the health line begins to play an important role in providing after-hours relief to overcrowded emergency room, it is hoped that will positively impact rising healthcare costs.

"This truly has a potential for being a win-win for everyone," said Paul Roth, M.D., interim executive vice president of the UNM Health Sciences Center and dean of the UNM School of Medicine. "Our ER should be helped. At the same time, this gives us the opportunity to reach out to people in the community and help empower them to make quality health care decisions for themselves and their families."