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Albuquerque Launches Conversation on Mental Health in Response to White House Call to Action

Mayor Richard J. Berry hosted the launch of a Greater Albuquerque dialogue on mental health today as one of the first cities to respond to President Obama’s call to action for community-based dialogues on mental health

July 20, 2013


Albuquerque, NM - Mayor Richard J. Berry hosted the launch of a Greater Albuquerque dialogue on mental health today as one of the first cities to respond to President Obama’s call to action for community-based dialogues on mental health. The national initiative is intended to increase understanding and awareness about mental health and ultimately improve the mental health systems for individuals, families, schools and communities.

Nearly 300 people, including youth through adults, participated in the "Creating Community Solutions – Albuquerque" dialogue at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Through facilitated small-group conversations throughout the day, several priorities were identified; raise awareness about mental health issues and resources to get help, provide mental health providers at places accessible to youth, and reduce fragmentation among providers.

In his opening comments Mayor Berry noted, "Today’s dialogue is just the beginning. We have continued conversations planned to ensure the ideas and priorities discussed today are carried out throughout the Greater Albuquerque community."

"Determining ways to eliminate the stigma and myths surrounding mental illness will be one of the most significant outcomes of Albuquerque's community conversation begun today," Senator Pete Domenici said during a live phone call from Washington, D.C. "I'm proud that my home town is taking a lead in this vital national dialogue."

The one-day event provided an opportunity to build on the important work already started by the city and take it further with discussions that ultimately lead to action plans designed to improve mental health programs and services in Albuquerque. Past conversations have resulted in a mental health resource guide for the city and the recently initiated study on Community Paramedicine designed in part to address the "disaportionate number of 911 calls received for mental health and substance abuse related issues," said Deputy Chief Tige Watson, of the Albuquerque Fire Department.

"Albuquerque’s past work in holding conversations regarding mental heath is why the city was chosen to lead the national dialogue on mental health," said Martha McCoy, executive director of Everyday Democracy-a Hartford, Conn. based organization that formed Creating Community Solutions and is helping the city to organize today’s dialogue and continuing community conversations planned for the fall.

"A diverse action planning committee will work from the results of today’s event to move this important work forward in the fall through the planned continuing community conversations," McCoy said.

The White House initiated the national conversation on mental health at a conference on June 3 with President Obama delivering opening remarks and Vice President Biden providing closing remarks. At the request of the White House, Mayor Richard J. Berry and Department of Family and Community Services Director Robin Otten attended the kickoff event in Washington D.C. In June.

Mayor Berry closed the day by commenting, "I intend to tell the President that we are setting the bar high here, and we are developing a roadmap forward on this important issue. Albuquerque is poised to lead and we will deliver meaningful results."

"Participants of the Albuquerque kickoff dialogue represented the whole community, with extra representation from young people, mental health providers, people with lived experience with mental health issues, and family members," said Otten.

Continuing community conversations are planned to take place within eight communities throughout the Greater Albuquerque Region  in the fall, "so that even more people can join the conversation and have a voice in creating action plans and strategies," said Felicia Barnum, President, National Alliance on Mental Illness Albuquerque Affiliate.  

Albuquerque has already created an impressive collaboration of support for this conversation. A broad base of New Mexico’s philanthropic community including Con Alma Health Foundation, the McCune Charitable Trust, and the United Way of Central New Mexico has provided local funding and support for this initiative. Providing additional planning and support for the Albuquerque dialogue are the following organizations: NAMI, YDI, Inc., Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, OptumHealth, Center for Health Policy at UNM, APS, NM HSD, NM Youth Alliance and Sign Language Professionals.