Maria-Elena Ochoa – Mountain Health & Wellness

Our guest speaker Maria-Elena Ochoa has an illustrious and varied career, including the following highlights:

·         Was Director of the Division for Women at the Governor’s office
      serving under both the Napolitano and Brewer administrations
·         Is President of National Society of Hispanic MBA’s (Phx Chapter);
·         Member of the Arizona Community Foundation Latina Giving Circle;
·         On the Girl Scouts Cactus Pine Council Board
·         Newly elected President of the CAAFA Board
·         Recipient of the Cambridge Executive of the Year Award

ImageCurrently as Chief of Medical Operations at Mountain Health & Wellness she is responsible for creating and integrating primary care services into the existing array of behavioral health and wellness services. This is a challenging position, since it represents developing a model that exists nowhere else in Arizona, or very few places in the United States. The need for this model has arisen because many individuals show up for appointments at their Primary Care Provider (PCP) with co-occurring conditions. These patients have behavioral health issues such as anxiety, depression, and chronic disease management challenges like diabetes, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular disease.  Conditions such as these can benefit from behavioral interventions as well as medication. Further, in Arizona today, persons with serious mental illnesses die on average 32 years sooner than individuals without these problems. Our system needs to find ways to assist these individuals and improve their mortality rates.


Ms. Ochoa shared healthcare cost projections, which for the early part of the 2020s is estimated to be a combined total of $1.2 trillion annually for treatment of Heart Disease ($186 B), Diabetes ($192 B), and Chronic Lung Disease ($832.9 B). A fully integrated healthcare system that treats the whole person, including a focus on wellness, will likely to be the most effective in impacting these costs. The model implemented by Mountain Health & Wellness under Ms. Ochoa’s guidance is just such a model.

A focus on wellness rounds out the Mountain Health & Wellness approach. Wellness is described as activities where people are able to promote health and joyfulness. This takes the form of activities like art expression, yoga classes, and fitness activities. MHW has instituted a policy where they no longer hire smokers (though smokers already employed are protected). Fitness activities are promoted and supported for both the staff and clientele of MHW. Said Ms. Ochoa …

We don’t just want to be the healthcare provider for our
traditional behavioral health clientele;
we want to be the healthcare provider of choice for everyone in
Apache Junction.