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Governor Susana Martinez Proposes Nearly $2.5 Million Expansion in Nurse Practitioner and Family Practice Residency Slots, Discusses New $600,000 Investment Proposal in Telemedicine for Rural Areas

Press Release

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Today Governor Susana Martinez proposed a nearly $2.5 million dollar investment to further prepare New Mexico to confront unprecedented changes in health care and connect New Mexicans in rural areas with the health care they need. Governor Martinez proposed to allocate $2.5 million to expand the family practice residency and nurse practitioner programs at the University of New Mexico. Governor Martinez also recently proposed to establish $600,000 in grant funding to connect rural New Mexico's patients and providers with telemedical services. This grant program would be administered by the New Mexico Department of Health if approved by the New Mexico Legislature.

"It is no secret that families and communities in rural New Mexico face a shortage of health care practitioners, from nursing professionals to family practice physicians and specialists," said Governor Martinez. "By expanding the number of nurse practitioners being trained in New Mexico, and offering additional loan repayment support in exchange for service in rural areas, we can significantly improve the quality of care that can be provided in rural settings throughout our state. And by recruiting more family practice physicians to our state and expanding our ability to use telemedicine in rural areas, we can better position ourselves to provide patients with the right care, at the right time and place."

Governor Martinez's proposal would dramatically increase the number of nurse practitioner slots at UNM by adding 24 seats. Her proposal also adds an additional seven family practice residency slots, three of which would participate in the "1+2" program, where residents practice for one year in Albuquerque and move into a rural area for the remaining two years of their residency program. Data from the UNM Health Sciences Center indicates that more than 60 percent of residents who participate in the "1+2" program remain in rural New Mexico following completion of their residency work.

Dr. Paul Roth, dean of the University of New Mexico College of Medicine, and Dr. Carolyn Montoya, Interim Practice Chair at the UNM College of Nursing, joined Governor Martinez for
his announcement.

Dr. Roth described how Governor Martinez's proposal will help bolster the health care workforce in rural New Mexico, saying, "Governor Martinez clearly understands the importance of training more physicians who are well-equipped to practice in New Mexico's uniquely diverse rural communities. Her proposed expansion of our residency program offers the opportunity for us to train more family practice physicians by having our residents get hands-on training directly in the communities that need their services the most."

Dr. Montoya also praised Governor Martinez's proposal to expand UNM's nurse practitioner program: "Because New Mexico has such a positive environment for nurse practitioners, with independent practice and prescriptive authority, this expansion will further prepare us to train highly qualified nurse practitioners who will be immediately ready to go out into New Mexico's rural communities to deliver care to families and communities," said Dr. Montoya.

Governor Martinez's proposal also seeks to further improve access to expert medical care, such as medical specialists like cardiologists and endocrinologists, who often play key roles in managing chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, by establishing a grant program for telemedicine. Telemedicine allows patients and providers to use the latest technology, such as video conferencing, to consult with specialists and other experts to collaborate and build knowledge to improve treatment of diseases, illnesses, and injuries. This funding will provide assistance for organizations to purchase, install, and set up the technology, infrastructure, and equipment needed to utilize telemedicine.

Governor Martinez has already signed into law legislation that requires group health insurance plans to cover telemedicine. This funding proposal will provide the financial support needed to further establish and develop telemedicine services in rural and underserved areas of New Mexico.

Governor Martinez's proposal is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering New Mexico's health care workforce. These proposals include:

* Investing $1.5 million in expanding New Mexico's health care workforce by providing financial aid in education to aspiring health care professionals who commit to serving in rural and underserved areas
* Establishing a common nursing curriculum across the state and facilitating new partnerships between universities and local colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing at more New Mexico schools
* Streamlining licensure for nurses relocating to New Mexico
* Highlighting New Mexico's competitiveness for Nurse Practitioners and actively recruiting more Nurse Practitioners to rural areas
* Expanding New Mexico's nurse educator program to allow for practicing nurses to more easily become nurse educators at a New Mexico higher education institution, and,
* Implementing a statewide training and voluntary certification program for community health workers.

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