Hospital starting stop-smoking program

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Roosevelt General Hospital is starting a new tobacco cessation program just in time to help many smokers with their New Year’s resolution.

RGH was selected as one of 10 hospitals in New Mexico for the Hospitals Helping program, which is aimed at helping patients as well as those in the community kick their tobacco addiction. The program is funded through the New Mexico Medical Review Association and the New Mexico Department of Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Control program.

RGH’s Director of Patient Care Gayle Richerson said statistics she received from a consultant working on community issues surrounding the Cannon Air Force Base change of mission, show Roosevelt County ranks in the top category of counties in New Mexico for incidence of lung cancer. According to consultant Peter Strauss, of Health Planning Solutions, the state cancer registries show lung cancer incidence among males in Roosevelt County is a crisis.

“That means we need to be doing something about it,” Richerson said.

The program provides staff training and support materials for starting support groups within the state’s hospitals. Laura Murdock is the hospital’s program coordinator and Exie Williams is one of three other counselors that will be working with the program.

RGH patients are screened as they are admitted and if they are a tobacco user and express an interest in getting help to quit.

The patient portion of the program has been going for three months, with numbers counseled going up steadily, according to Richerson.

“I think (with) chronic diseases, smoking just makes it worse,” Murdock said. “If they can stop, hopefully they won’t be readmitted. They’re also going to have a better quality of life if they quit.”

Murdock hopes to start the first support group classes, which are available to the public, in February. The free classes will meet once a week for one to two hours a night over an eight-week period.

Murdock and Williams said through workbook exercises, the group will learn about the triggers to their addiction and the habits and patterns that go with it and be introduced to various tools for dealing with them. By the halfway point, the pair said most people will be able to outline a personalized plan to quit. The counselors will offer follow-up support past the eight weeks.

The program’s organizers said medicinal aids such as nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, a new drug called Chantix and stress relief exercises can help, however, each individual has to find out what works for them and take the initiative to quit.

“We want them to have realistic goals,” Williams said. “They’re not going to just not smoke a cigarette the next day. It’s a process.

While the program will accept adolescents, at first they will likely be in the same class as adults. Murdock and Williams said the need to serve young people is great and plans down the road include support classes with just adolescents if feasible.

Information: Laura Murdock, 359-1800, ext. 415.