Friday, March 13, 2020

Safe Access New Mexico Letter to NM Dept. of Health for COVID-19 Response

Jason Barker

Albuquerque, NM 87109

Friday, March 13th 2020

Office of the Cabinet Secretary
The Honorable Kathyleen Kunkel
New Mexico Department of Health
Harold Runnels Building
1190 S. St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Dr. Zurlo, Medical Cannabis Program Manager
New Mexico Department of Health
Medical Cannabis Program
PO Box 26110
Santa Fe, NM, 87502-6110
(via email )

Dear Cabinet Secretary Kunkel and Dr. Zurlo,

For a month now our state and the rest of the US has been carefully trying to navigate the COVID 19 crisis.

The Governor on Wednesday issued a public health emergency, as other states have, in order to maximize the resources available to the state in order to fight the potential spread of the virus and minimize public health risks for New Mexicans. And then New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel issued an order Thursday temporarily prohibiting mass gatherings in New Mexico in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to canceling all large public events and avoiding large public gatherings whenever possible, New Mexico health officials continue to urge New Mexicans to:

Avoid all non-essential travel to affected out-of-state areas; and exercise extreme caution with all out-of-state travel

Remain home (“self-isolate”) if you are sick and call the Department of Health at 1-855-600-3453 if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms of COVID-19

Those symptoms include fever, cough or trouble breathing

And continue taking precautionary steps to protect your individual health, such as:

Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

Clean “high-touch” surfaces daily with regular household cleaners

Avoid sharing personal household items

And as you both very well know and understand, the majority of the health conditions on the MCP’s qualifying conditions list are one where people have a compromised immune system.

I respectfully ask the Department of Health to please consider extending the expiration of all medical cannabis program registry cards (patient/caregiver) to the end of the year, December 31st 2020. This would be a prudent move for the safety of everyone involved in this renewal process - including Department staff.

I also think this would also be another proactive measure of the Department that would coincide with CDC Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission. []

My patient registry card expires April 19th 2020 and I have been trying all this week and last week to get an appointment with my doctor with no luck. To be eligible for the program we have to be seeing the same doctor or medical provider yearly. And with it being March 13th now, this most likely means I am going to not be able to have my card renewed turned in and processed before my card expires.

And I can't be the only patient having issues trying to get an appointment with their medical provider due to the COVID 19 crisis and the panic now going on in our state. And with over 82,000 patients in the MCP that means hundreds and hundreds of people are renewing every month and having to go to a medical provider.

Putting a strain on our already thinly stretched health care system in New Mexico during this COVID 19 crisis, especially if it would put patients/caregivers in the MCP at risk to COVID 19 - due to the types of qualifying conditions in the program.

“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”― Voltaire

Most Respectfully Yours,
Jason M. Barker

Albuquerque, NM 87109