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NM residents seek adequate brain injury rehab in El Paso

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- A growing number of New Mexico families are traveling to rehab facilities in El Paso to adquateget adequate care for brain injuries.

Managers of Mentis Neuro Rehabilitation in El Paso said they've seen a substantial number of New Mexico patients in recent months, especially young adults.

The Brain Injury Alliance of New Mexico, said that's because there is no law that mandates coverage of post-acute rehabilitation services in New Mexico.

"This way, the insurance companies in New Mexico can almost purposely write out cognitive rehab or neuro rehab in a post-acute setting," said Nancy Peters, marketing director at Mentis and member of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Mexico.

Senate Bill 52, a bill that would have changed that, was endorsed this year. However, it did not pass the legislature.

"It's going to be on an ongoing battle," Peters said. "We are fighting for them, we are their voice. We're the voice of brain injury, and it needs to be heard loud and clear."

Nicole Lardner is a 21-year-old corrections officer from Albuquerque.

Lardner was seriously injured in a car accident in October.
It put her in a coma for days and left her with a traumatic brain injury.

"The left side of her body actually has muscle spasticity so it's interfering with her attempts to talk," said Michelle Lardner, Nicole's sister.

Nicole was able to receive up to 30 days of treatment in Albuquerque, but that was it.

"With the insurance, there was a limited time frame," Michelle said.

Lardner said her sister was still in need of care, so her family took her to the closest post-acute rehab facility they could find -- nearly 300 miles away in El Paso.

"If they're not better in 30 days, then that's it, that's the end of the road," Lardner said.

After a month at Mentis, Nicole's family said they cannot afford to keep her in El Paso any longer.

However, Michelle said she and her family are thankful for the care Nicole was able to receive in El Paso.

"We're just so grateful that the team here at the facility offered her time," Lardner said. "It's good to know that someone is validating that she can continue to progress and that she can become a productive member of society."