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Updates on the Behavioral Health Initiative from Councilor Isaac Benton

Nearly two years ago the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County came together to form the Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) to find new solutions to the behavioral health crisis in Albuquerque

Dear Constituents,

Nearly two years ago the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County came together to form the Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) to find new solutions to the behavioral health crisis in Albuquerque.   We convened experts, physicians, first responders, providers, families, and people living with mental health and/or substance abuse issues to identify and design programs are most needed in the metro area to address the unmet needs of people living with behavioral health issues.

These programs, in broad categories, include:

Expansion of Crisis Services

Create services and a culture whereby people in crisis who are not committing crimes are diverted to therapeutic services rather than incarceration and freeing up law enforcement to combat serious crime in our community. In many instances this entailed working closely with law enforcement to change policies and procedures in their initial 911 response, increased use of trained APD’s Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), development of “Mobile Crisis Teams (CET) comprised of law enforcement officers paired with a masters’ level behavioral health clinicians, creation of “Community Engagement Teams” who assist people who are coming out of crisis.

New Behavioral Health Programs

While the State of New Mexico provides funding for many medical services relating to behavioral health, there are many services that the State does not fund, such as case management and supportive housing. Case management, in general terms, is a counseling and advocation service that supports the client’s resiliency in addressing the individualized needs whether it is precarious housing, food insecurity, medication management, ect. The BHI has approved two case management programs (one specifically for people with mental health issues and one for people with substance abuse issues). The BHI has also approved the creation of “Peer Driven Drop in Support Services” at community centers, schools and churches.

The City and County have always funded housing initiatives, but through this initiative we have expanded our housing solutions including the creation of a single site supportive housing program; Youth Transitional Living (a new supportive housing targeted for at-risk youth with a behavioral health diagnosis); and expansion of the Community Connections Supportive Housing program.

The BHI has also created the “Reduction of Adverse Childhood Experiences Program (ACES) which addresses the prevention, identification, early intervention, support and treatment for youths with behavioral health issues.

Recently, the City of Albuquerque implemented a supportive transportation shuttle that allows people with behavioral health or homeless issues to travel to agencies and services in the metro area.

Connections to Existing Services

One of the major problems with the current behavioral health services continues to be fragmentation of the system where programs are not integrated or coordinated effectively with other programs. The BHI has worked diligently to leverage existing services, advocate for expansion of those services, and to coordinate services. Whether it is working with UNM to expand services at the Psychological Emergency Services; working with the State of New Mexico to change the law to allow for increased Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral health crisis services; or to bolster the access to the under-utilized New Mexico Crisis and Access Line, the BHI is leading the effort to create more effective methods to address behavioral health issues in our community.

The City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have been working hard to get these services into our community and we look forward to continuing to develop these services. In the future we will be looking to work with the State of New Mexico and medical providers to expand crisis stabilization centers and to expand case management and housing services for people with behavioral health issues.

If you would like more information about the new programs navigate to the Behavioral Health Initiative on the Bernalillo County website.

Also, if you or your family are experiencing a behavioral health crisis or issue please be aware that the NM Crisis and Access line is available 24/7, free of charge, to help connect you to services, to provide direct assistance from licensed behavioral health counselor, or for peer to peer services to assist in coping and support. The telephone number is (1-855-NMCRISIS or 1-855-662-4747)