How just another behavioral health meeting opened my eyes and my heart

During my short tenure on the NAMI Albuquerque board, the one project I worked on was Community Engagement Teams (CET). The idea behind CET was if a family member, neighbor, friend, etc. believes a peer might benefit from services, they can request a CET visit with a peer and offer help locating services, before the peer falls into crisis. As I liked to call it, “Catching us up river before we hit the rapids.” CET could be the conduit to services.

I saw a secondary purpose for CET. I remember when I first was divorced. I had no idea where to get help, and I really wanted to keep my treatment going and didn’t know how, or even where to start. The ex-wife was the person who helped me with this. In my struggles to get help, I really could have used a clearing house for info on and direction to services. CET could be the conduit to services for peers who want to catch themselves up river.

For several legislative sessions a state CET bill failed to become law. The best chance it had didn’t come through because the governor vetoed the bill, on the grounds the service should be in HSD (Human Services Department) and not DOH (Department of Health). Drats.

After the bill was vetoed, a small group of us went a different way. We decided to ask for the blessing of HSD to develop and implement a pilot project in Bernalillo County. The two people I worked with closely were Jim Ogle and Nils Rosenbaum. We all came to the table with distinct perspectives on how CET could be useful.

We had several meetings in Santa Fe with HSD to lay out our ideas for the pilot project. For one middling meeting, two representatives from the City of Roswell asked to attend. Their names I can’t remember. Their faces I do. One worked directly with their mayor, the other was a peer who was there to describe what mental services were available to them. This peer was a revolving door peer at their detention center … jail. This was the only mental health service in Roswell. Literally.

Mistakenly, these two representatives believed that CET was a fully realized program with funding. They were attending to speak of their community’s needs and secure funding. If CET funding was dedicated to Roswell, this would bring providers and services to Roswell to support CET. Sadly, this wasn’t going to be available.

I’ve been at a few hundred behavioral health meetings in the last decade. This meeting I remember because of what the mayor’s rep said.

“I’m supposed to be going home with hope. I was supposed to bring services to Roswell. What do I tell them now?”

He said this through tears.

Of all the behavioral health meetings I attended, this one meeting exemplifies the critical need for services around our state and how the programs and funding do not exist. And Roswell is not a tiny railroad town. It’s one of the largest cities in southeast New Mexico.

More and more, the issue I see that is impeding health care availability in New Mexico is funding. There are so many great, innovative solutions already planned for addressing the needs of frontier services, but without money it’s just talk.

Having an active and funded CET program to share with other needful New Mexico communities woukd have been … just grwat. I teared up big time at this meeting, and meeting that proves New Mexico social are dangerously underfunded. The coffers run in the red. And, newly identified peers with specific needd aren’t addressed because it’s a lot of money to develop brans new services.

We need money. The reality is New Mexico is one of poorest (financially poorest – we are rich in community and culture) states in the union year after year. A main primary solution is to identify services peers don’t use and don’t want and eliminate these to fund the useful needs of peers. Based on our peer focus groups, I can name five of these progeans right here in Albuquerqhe. Another solutionn is to look at novel funding otberwise untapped. I’ll be sharong more on this after beta-testing with STS funding. And where it comes to government funded social services, we need to get out of the cycle of increnentally taxing the existing pie more and morr year after year We must make our tax pie larger.

The CET meeting opened my eyes and my heart to realities outside my day to day life. And very directly, I find these realities unacceptable and, thankfully, only temporary. I have a few ideas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *