Sierra Vista Herald: Mark Kelly tours Chiricahua Community Health Center
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly spent the day Thursday in Cochise County, making stops in both Sierra Vista and Bisbee.
The day served as an opportunity for Kelly to learn more about the county’s needs and spend time with children in the area.
Kelly’s first stop was in Sierra Vista for a tour of the Chiricahua Community Health Center and Dental Clinic.
On the special tour provided by Chiricahua staff, Kelly was able to meet employees, learn about the health center and ask questions about the health needs of the community.
“It’s great to see they can serve so many people and they will take pretty much everybody,” Kelly said. “The facility is quite impressive, especially that dental office, I’ve never seen a dental office, including the one I went to as an astronaut, that looks as nice and new and well equipped as that place.”
“So it seems to me that that health clinic must be a really important to this community and Sierra Vista.”
On the tour, staff were able to talk about the vital services provided through the community health center’s various locations around the county.
A reoccurring theme was the difficulty many residents of the county have in getting affordable health care and a lack of medical offices in the area that accept Medicaid.
Director of Dental Services Brianna Hillier, DMD, talked about the lack of dental clinics that accept Medicaid in Sierra Vista.
“In Douglas we have a large amount of people on Medicaid and in Sierra Vista there’s one other center in town that takes Medicaid,” she said.
“We provide services to everybody but it shouldn’t matter what pay or type you are or if you have no money, you should really be able to enjoy top quality health care.”
Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Melk reiterated just how limiting the lack of Medicaid access can be for community members.
“If you don’t accept Medicaid in Cochise County, you’re excluding not only the majority of the population, but a large majority of children are excluded right off the bat and the main reason a child misses school — toothache,” he said.
“So if we can prevent that, treat that child, they can go to school and hopefully achieve higher in school and hopefully do more with their life.”
“This is a facility for everyone, so if you slept under a bridge last night, you haven’t bathed in two weeks, you are welcome through our door and we are going to try and impress you the same way if you’re the wealthiest person.”
Health care is a major platform for Kelly and he said it is an issue that affects everyone — it is something that people are constantly concerned about.
“The federal government in some way or another has an effect on everybody’s health care, regardless if you are at the clinic here or get your health care coverage through Medicaid, AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) here in Arizona or private insurance,” Kelly said.
“It’s something the federal government is having an effect on so it’s an important issue and certainly going to be an important issue going forward.”
“Providing health care for a large number of people, it’s not an easy thing,” Kelly added.
After the tour, Kelly sat down with the Herald/Review to talk about some of his platforms and topics affecting the state, like water and the border.
Overall, as far as how he would advocate for Cochise County in Washington D.C. he said he wants to ensure the county gets enough resources.
“I think it’s a matter of fighting for a fair share of federal resources,” he said. “Here in Sierra Vista, the big driver in the economy is Fort Huachuca and we got to make sure the Fort has a budget so they can do their job; and they do so many important things.”
“It’s good that some of the stuff they do (at Fort Huachuca) is only done here, which is a positive thing, but we need people in Congress who are going to fight for this mission and Fort.”
Kelly’s wife is former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and Kelly said he has visited the border with her many times over the last 15 years.
He said the need for more border security is clear.
“It’s not an easy issue to address, it’s a complex set of circumstances causing us to have a pretty significant problem and it’s a problem that Washington D.C. is not addressing effectively,” he said. “We need more staffing, more technology on the border and what’s happening, especially these kids, it’s tragic.”
“We should not be separating kids from their parents either, locking them in cages — it’s not who we are as a country.”
Kelly believes technology improvements are a big part of addressing the issues, as well as looking at the root of the problem.
“If you went and asked NASA to deal with this issue they wouldn’t give you a 17th century solution to a 21st century problem; it would be technology.”
As far as Arizona’s water, Kelly believes conservation is key, as well as negotiating water rights for the Colorado River to get a fair share.
Kelly has spoken out against partisanship and believes the parties need to work together to some degree to achieve real change.
“Partisanship is causing us so many issues and things get so much harder to solve when people get into their partisan corners,” he said. “We have to be better and people have to reach across the aisle.”
“To me, it’s not going to matter what party the person comes from when it’s for the benefit of this state and this country.”
Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy combat pilot, engineer and NASA astronaut, announced in February his intent to run for the seat formerly held by late Sen. John McCain, currently held by Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.