Socorro Physical Therapy office looks to expand

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Socorro Physical Therapy on California Street, the only place that offers relief from bodily ailments in the Socorro area since Body Wise went under, is in the preliminary steps of expanding its business to include more room for PT patients and wellness program members.

The wellness program, designed to help people get or stay in shape, would improve greatly with the addition of the gym that Socorro PT owner Kelby Stephens plans to include in his expansion.

Exercise and regular physical activity offered by Stephen’s wellness program is important because obesity is a growing concern in the country today.

“Nationally, obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children in the last 20 years. New Mexicans have followed a similar pattern,” states the N.M. Department of Health’s State of Health in New Mexico 2011 report. he prevalence of adult and youth obesity is considered a “worsening trend,” according to the report.

In 1995, only 13 percent of adults were obese in New Mexico; in 2009, 25.6 percent were obese, with the numbers for overweight adults remaining stable at around 36 percent during that time.

Obesity, in turn, leads to chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, which are the leading causes of death and disability in the nation, according to the Center for Disease Control’s website.

In Socorro County, almost a fifth of all residents are considered obese and 30 percent do not exercise.

Stephens’ gym could help with the number of people who don’t exercise. He wants to promote health and wellness by helping the residents of Socorro and its neighboring areas get regular physical activity, which reduces body fat, maintains healthy body weight and reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

Stephens, who began running Socorro Physical Therapy in 2004 for Rocky Mountain Therapy Services, has wanted to expand his clinic into the surrounding space for a long time. Along with his main purpose of making sure patients with injuries recuperate, Stephens wants a portion of the nearly 7,500-square-foot building available for people just to stay fit.

“I plan on running it like it would be a gym,” Stephens said. “I’m going to have locker rooms with showers. We’re going to have some free weight systems. We’re going to have some weighted equipment, you know, individually weighted equipment. We’ll have a bunch of treadmills, a bunch of bikes.”

Of course, Stephens’ gym would be competing with other places around Socorro that offers exercise equipment. Finley Gym offers a small weight room at no cost. Curves offers a place to workout, but only for women, and New Mexico Tech’s gym, an expansive basement with numerous sets of equipment, is probably the lead competitor.

A membership at Tech Gym is $30 a month for an individual and $65 a month for a family. The gym also has deals for people who want to sign up for a year, $200 for an individual and $300 for a family.

Stephens hasn’t gotten as far as setting membership dues yet, but the price of his wellness program is $40 per person per month and the price of membership at his gym will “probably be something similar,” he said.

His gym will have a competitive advantage over already established places, he said, because his clientele is already in place.

“Really, I designed my wellness program to offer to patients who still needed to continue with therapy but couldn’t afford it or insurance ran out, or, you know, something else,” Stephens said. “So, that’s been pretty popular and so it’s working out really well and I’ve had a lot of people come up and say, ‘Hey, why don’t you start a gym, open it up to the community and they can come in?’”

Stephens believes he has another advantage over a place such as Tech Gym, which is used mainly by young and middle-aged workout enthusiasts. Most people, usually in the older age bracket, don’t like going to a gym because they don’t like the gym atmosphere, he explains. People who don’t have that gym mentality will find a place where they can work out within their limits.

“We’re going to have other services too where, not necessarily personal trainers but, maybe they want to come in and do a 30 minute evaluation with me,” he said. “To kind of sit down with them and let’s talk about things you want to work on, and get better on, and focus on. I want you to do these exercises and we’ll start kind of building up from there.”

Working with people to maintain healthy lifestyles is important to Stephens.

“I always hear the stories of, ‘Oh yeah, I injured myself in football and it’s bothered me for the rest of my life,’” Stephens said. “I don’t want to hear that, and that’s the problem. A lot of people don’t realize that they can recover from those injuries and get back to full health and shouldn’t have any problems with the future. So, let’s make sure we’ve got it taken care of.”

Stephens extends this care to high school athletes injured playing sports in the area for free because he doesn’t want to hear any more of those types of stories.

His love of sports — he was a scholarship football player in college in Montana — got him into the physical therapy business in the first place.

“I got involved thinking I was going to become a coach and be a teacher,” he said. “And I got involved in the athletic training side of the coaching, thinking, ‘Hey, I need to take care of athletes and stuff like that.’ And I just got really enthused about the athletic training, taking care of injured people.

“And one summer I worked with a kid who just finished his first year of PT school in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and I told him I was thinking about becoming an athletic trainer, and he said, ‘If you’re going to be an athletic trainer, why don’t you be a physical therapist? They do the same thing and they make a lot more money.’ So, I looked into it, fell in love with it and here I am.”

But before he had his own place in Socorro, he tried to find one in Wyoming.

“(The CEO of Rocky Mountain Therapy Services and I) actually drove all over Wyoming, looking for a clinic to start. Just couldn’t find it anyplace,” Stephens said. “The lady who had owned the clinic (in Socorro) decided that she was done.”

The pair traveled to Socorro to check it out and decided that the clinic was what Stephens was looking for. It was in a small town and he could manage it by himself.

In 2010, Stephens bought out the Rocky Mountain Therapy Service’s share of ownership. He had always wanted to own a clinic — it had just taken a few years to convince the parent company to sell to him.

“Now, I’m at a point where I’ve been running the business for a couple years and I know what I’m doing,” Stephens said. “We need more room. We’ve got the potential to do a lot. I see a lot of needs in the community.

“I think we could really use some aquatic therapy, so that’s one of my goals is to get a therapy pool in there so we can use that for the community, and also expand my wellness program so we can get more people in there using the fitness equipment in the gym and getting themselves healthy. (I want to) promote health and wellness, and go from there.”

Right now, the expansion is in the planning stage. Stephens has to draw up the architectural plans, take them to a few contractors and get bids on the construction. A date is not set.

“I’d like it done tomorrow,” he said, laughing, “but it’s not going to happen.”

 

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