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Hafen’s AB120 could help expand health outreach in rural areas — here’s how

The 82nd Legislative Session is drawing to a close and despite another politically divisive year, state legislators have passed a bevy of new bills, including one sponsored by Nevada Assemblyman Greg Hafen II, R-Pahrump, which received not only bipartisan but unanimous support across the aisles.

Assembly Bill 120 revises provisions relating to volunteerism by medical professionals.

“Existing law prohibits a provider of health care who has not actively practiced his or her profession continuously for the immediately preceding three years from providing voluntary health care service,” according to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest.

The bill changes this restriction so that newly licensed medical professionals can finally offer their expertise on a voluntary basis.

“This is something I have been working on since 2019,” Hafen told the Pahrump Valley Times this week, just hours before Gov. Joe Lombardo was set to sign the bill into law. “I am extremely humbled to have been able to expand much-needed health care throughout rural Nevada.”

Nearly a dozen letters of support were submitted for AB120’s first hearing before the Nevada Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor, many from those representing entities in Nye County. Nye County Manager Tim Sutton penned a letter of support, as did Tonopah Town Manager Joe Westerlund, Beatty Town Advisory Board Chair Erika Gerling, officials at Desert View Hospital and more.

Others testified in-person, including Pahrump resident Ryan Muccio, president-elect of the NyE Communities Coalition Managing Board and a co-chair for the Pahrump Remote Area Medical Community Host Group.

Remote Area Medical is an international nonprofit that brings free pop-up clinics to underserved communities all over the world. Pahrump has benefited from these clinics over the years and this year, the NyE Communities Coalition was able to work with various partners to bring Remote Area Medical to Tonopah.

And though these events have had a huge impact on the lives of those who have received free health care, that impact could have been even greater had additional volunteers been able to lend a hand.

“I have been the co-chair for the Pahrump Remote Area Medical Clinic for the past eight years and each year, I have personally had to make calls to medical providers explaining to them they cannot come volunteer their time because they are newly licensed and do not meet the three-year requirement as set for in NRS 629.450(2)(c). This is devastating to the success of our events and directly affects the amount of people in desperate need that we can help,” Muccio told legislators during his testimony.

“I think back to a scenario last year when a recent UNLV Dental School graduate registered to volunteer at our clinic after experiencing the clinic as a student volunteer in 2018,” he continued. “The student has become a licensed dentist in good standing but was turned away from volunteering. It is unimaginable that this individual was able to volunteer their time as a student, but not as a licensed dentist. It is my sincere hope that this committee take into consideration the importance and significance of this bill passing. The passing of this bill will directly and tangibly improve access to much-needed health care in Nevada.”

With the passage of AB120, more medical professionals, from dentists and optometrists to doctors and nurse practitioners, are authorized to to do just that.

When Muccio received word that AB120 had passed, he was overjoyed at the news. “I am so grateful and excited at the passage of AB120!” he told the Times with obvious delight. “We have been working on this for years, and with Assemblyman Hafen’s persistence, we now get to realize all of our hard work. Our Remote Area Medical clinics will significantly improve moving forward.”

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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