New health office will accommodate space needs

Argen Duncan

Officials broke ground for the new 6,000-square-foot, $1.5 million Portales Department of Health office on Wednesday.

Public Health Nurse Manager Carol Morgan said the office, to be located beside La Casa Family Health Center on Fir Street, would house Public Health, Children’s Medical Services and Women, Infants and Children programs, all of which fall under the state Department of Health. The programs’ staff now work with 1,100 square feet in La Casa.

“That building is going to be a source of a lot of joy for us and hopefully, for our patients, a lot of healing,” Morgan said.

The deadline for the building’s completion is March 1, 2011, and the county is using state money to construct it.

Morgan and La Casa Chief Financial Officer Steven Connelly said their organizations would continue to have a good working relationship and refer patients to each other, but both needed more space.

The new facility will have three exam rooms, which will allow public health staff members to see patients more rapidly than with the one exam room they have now, she said. The building is also expected to provide class space for receptions and classes so such events don’t have to be held in the WIC waiting room.

New classroom space would allow a better group education setting and give more privacy to people taking classes or meeting one-on-one with staff members or peer mentors, WIC nutritionist and supervisor Margie Blatnik said.

The planned office would have a demonstration kitchen for her classes, laboratory, pharmacy and covered breezeway connecting it to La Casa as well, she said.

Blatnik said the extra space would allow the staff to offer better service.

“Overall, it’s just going to enhance the community in a big way,” she said.

As for La Casa, Connelly said the space the Department of Health vacated would probably go to expanding his organization’s dental service and to medical exam rooms.

“It’s going to give both of us a lot more room for the future,” he said of the planned building.