The Grande Family Health Clinic held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Rio Rancho. UNM Health Sciences expanded family health care access to under-served sections of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque by launching the clinic, which is located at 1790 Grande Boulevard in south Rio Rancho. Matt Hollinshead photo.

University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center officially launched the Grande Family Health Clinic to help expand health care to under-served sections of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque.

“Right now, there’s a huge need for primary care services in the area, and the goal of this clinic is to get to the people that are on waiting lists,” said Darlenis Castillo, the Grande clinic practice manager.

Castillo said the new 3,000-square-foot clinic, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, is accepting new patients and will provide referrals to specialists as needed.

Castillo said the COVID-19 pandemic made telecommunication services for under-served sections of Sandoval County difficult, which in turn made it more difficult for them to obtain prescription medication and other forms of care. She also said some of those community members already didn’t have access to cell phones and other technology.

“We know that receiving health care throughout the COVID pandemic has been particularly tough for people. Access to primary care has always been in shortage in the state of New Mexico, so we think it’s incredibly important to be opening this clinic up right now,” said Dr. Robb McLean, the president and CEO for UNM Medical Group.

Aside from primary family care, Castillo said the clinic — at 1790 Grande Blvd. in south Rio Rancho — looks to expand with behavioral health services soon.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the decision to incorporate that area of service, particularly in expanding those resources for children, because of the psychological toll brought on by the lockdowns and subsequent isolation.

“We have seen patients right now that need to referred,” Castillo said. “Unfortunately with COVID, it’s been noticed that behavioral health service is a huge need, not only Rio Rancho but all across the board.”

McLean said the stress of the pandemic has affected people, so there’s an increased need for behavioral health services in conjunction with primary care.

Castillo said the clinic will also partner with Albuquerque Public Schools and Rio Rancho Public Schools to help children in under-served areas get their COVID-19 vaccines. That way, parents won’t have to miss work to secure an appointment for their child.

She also said the clinic will focus on educating families about the vaccines and addressing possible concerns they may have.

She said the clinic plans to administer vaccines starting in mid-October.

“We know that we are meeting the needs of the community by expanding our primary care footprint out in Rio Rancho,” McLean said.