La Casa officials earmark grant money for improvements

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

As officials at La Casa Family Health Center well know, some grants only begin to cover the expenses of a big project.

Right now, though, La Casa is enjoying the news of a $766,880 award and just how far it’ll go toward a variety of improvements.

Part of a $12.8 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to New Mexico community health centers, La Casa’s portion has already been earmarked — but it’s not for any one single area.

“We’ve got lots of plans. We were all excited. In all my years that I’ve been involved in health care, this is the first time we’ve had this kind of infusion in new money to do these types of things,” said Seferino Montano, CEO at La Casa.

La Casa Family Health Center has clinics in Portales, Clovis, Roswell and Hondo and, according to Montano, its membership in the National Association of Community Health Centers helped alert company officials of the opportunities available through the ARRA.

One award of $294,000 was already given to La Casa and the health center used that for its outreach program and for hiring a new pediatrician.

This time, multiple targets have been identified for the newer, bigger grant.

Montano estimates that up to $200,000 will be used for two projects. One is an upgrade in La Casa’s electronic medical record system and the other is for renovation of a building in Roswell that will eventually be turned into a pediatric clinic.

“It’s about seven years old. Actually, it’s an ideal building because it was used for a pediatric practice previously,” said Montano, who received word of the new award on Monday. “Once we get those renovations done, we will open that clinic.”

Another chunk of around $120,000 will be used for adding an imaging component to the clinic’s electronic dental health records.

“It cuts down on the future costs if we go electronic. That way, records can be more readily accessed,” said Isabell Walla, who has been on the La Casa board of directors for eight years “These (improvements) are all necessary.”

The rest of the grant will go to minor renovations on all of the clinics, including repainting and the replacement of carpets and fixtures where needed as well as new printers and computer hardware.

Montano said he’s already working on another application for more ARRA money. This time, La Casa will be trying to find a way to put its current Roswell clinic in a new building.

“That’s going to be fairly expensive, between six and eight million dollars,” Montano said.