Advocate fired from Axis board
Some residents seek community meeting based on concerns
M.B. McAfee, a well-respected community health-care advocate, was fired from the Axis Board of Directors in August, and some concerned residents want to know why.
“We want to discuss how to respond to the Axis Board and truly say, we are indeed paying attention,” said a concerned observer speaking on condition of anonymity. “This board does not have the community’s interest or organization’s vision in mind, and they should be held accountable for their actions and choices. We want, expect and demand more from this institution.”
Nominated by the Cortez Chamber of Commerce for Citizen of the Year in 2012, McAfee has served her hometown of Cortez in a variety of organizations over the last 15 years, including breathing life into the Bridge Emergency Shelter. She was appointed to the Axis Health System board in 2004, named Outstanding Board Member of the Year in 2009 and then unexpectedly removed from her post as board secretary on Aug. 27.
McAfee was hesitant to comment, but she did admit that a majority of board members were routinely unsettled by tough questions she asked to ensure transparency within the organization.
“I was told that I got fired, because I continuously hindered efforts of both the board and CEO as they attempted to achieve the primary goals of the organization,” McAfee said. “I was shocked.”
In an email to rally support for McAfee, residents believe her queries of the board were just one reason for her dismissal. The email also suggests that McAfee gave Axis CEO Bern Heath a less than a stellar annual evaluation, which also resulted in her firing. Through his secretary, Heath declined to comment.
Despite being the lone opposition to McAfee’s dismissal, Axis board member Kim Welty also declined to comment regarding the board’s action. Welty did say McAfee was an individual concerned that all residents receive equal access to health care, and cited her as a “great asset” to the community.
“M.B. definitely has a great compassion for the community,” Welty said. “She wants to take care of people in the community, especially those who are less fortunate.”
Axis board president John Albright also declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss confidential board matters.
“I can’t comment at all,” Albright said.
McAfee holds both doctoral and master’s degrees from Colorado State University, and her research of American Indians in higher education is nationally recognized. She was named Outstanding Alumna of the Year in 2010 by CSU’s School of Social Work.
Founded as Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center in April of 1960, the Axis Health System serves Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties. The nonprofit corporation is licensed to provide mental-health services, substance-use disorder treatment and primary-care services at the Cortez Integrated Healthcare clinic.
Residents are working to establish a broader community discussion on how the actions of the Axis board of directors impacts the community at large, but details for the meeting have yet to be finalized.
Despite the community support, McAfee said she doesn’t want to return to her post at Axis.
“I don’t want back on the board,” she said.