“We’re a general family medicine clinic, based on a small business model,” Taneja explains. “We are not contracted with insurance companies because that would increase the amount of administration and people we would have to hire specifically to deal with billing.”
Inspired by the work of Dr. Andru Ziwasimon, one of the founders of Casa de Salud, Dr. Taneja says she came to New Mexico to work with the clinic because she wanted to be somewhere that fit her desires for a more ethical and just approach to practicing medicine.
“And being able to treat patients in a walk-in clinic really serves that,” Taneja says. “And being able to work with practitioners who know so much more than I do and who are doing acupuncture and oriental and traditional medicine, my mind is just really opening with the possibilities for healing.
“We are really excited about what we do here,” Taneja says of Casa de Salud. “Bringing it down to patient first, because most health care needs are not all that expensive if we really focus more on what patients need in primary care and fair prices.”
Dr. Camilla Romero agrees.
“We all believe in this model that extends access and quality health care,” Romero says. “You can really do a lot with some of the resources you have.”
Medicine You Can Grow
And that includes using food as medicine.
A general practitioner with a specialty in preventive medicine, Romero organized the ground breaking ceremony for the garden held on Saturday.
“We’ve had a garden the last couple of years and people love it,” Romero says. “And hopefully we’re looking for a work-study student to help us manage the garden and expand it and also start some nutrition education and combine those two.”
Addressing Drug Problems with Compassion
And they have a harm reduction program. Youth Development Incorporated (YDI) has a room in the clinic that does needle exchange two days a week, but that turns out to be not enough to meet the demand.
“We found there was quite a desire for more clean needles,” explains Taneja. “So we trained all of our staff to be able to do a needle exchange with patients, including educating them on how to inject cleaner and safer and also to dispense Narcan.”
Narcan reverses the effect of opiates or heroin and has been found to save lives.
“Someone who might be going into a severe overdose of heroin or pills, could come out of that,” Taneja says as she explains that the clinic has a contract with the Department of Health to dispense Narca.
They also have a suboxone clinic on Wednesdays. Suboxone is a medicine that helps heroin or opiate pain pill addiction by reducing pain, anxiety and cravings.
“We’ve seen a lot of success with it,” Taneja says. “People go from recreational, traumatic, or familial use patterns of heroin to doing very well on the suboxone.”
Unfortunately it’s a pill that only physicians can prescribe. Taneja says it would be great if physician assistants and nurse practitioners could also prescribe it, for they are already up to the maximum number of patients they can serve.
She noted that they say 30 patients for suboxone on Wednesday, but had to turn away about 13 others.
They hope to prevent having to turn away patients with their new building. Meanwhile, they continue to serve as many people as they can.
Saving Patients Money and Trips to the Emergency Room
“It’s a huge gap that we’re filling, when patient’s only other option is the emergency room,” says Taneja. “Especially if they’re uninsured, the cost differential is immense.”
Romero says she believe the key is to have more mid-level practitioners, meaning general practitioners, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. And emphasizing prevention.
“You know, not just popping a pill, but real health care,” says Romero. “There is a lot we can do by just talking to patients and being with them.”
As far as addressing health care for the nation, a visit to Casa de Salud by President Obama and other politicians in Washington may be just what the doctor ordered.