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Mayor Keller Highlights City Resources During Mental Health Awareness Month

Voucher programs, Albuquerque Community Safety Department, and collaboration key in supporting people suffering from addiction and mental health issues

ALBUQUERQUE – Today, Mayor Tim Keller highlighted City of Albuquerque resources during Mental Health Awareness Month. This month, the City of Albuquerque is highlighting its Providing Addiction Treatment and Health (PATH) program to help support people facing substance abuse issues. The PATH program provides vouchers for complete addiction treatment programs at no cost for those who can’t afford it.

“Substance abuse is a widespread issue in our city and accessing treatment can feel impossible for people who don’t have insurance to cover the cost,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “I want to remind anyone who is facing the choice between getting help and paying for rent or food that the PATH program is here for you.”

Following Mayor Keller’s proclamation declaring May Mental Health Month, the City relaunched the PATH program, including short videos that highlight this important program. You can see them on Family and Community Services’ Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Another key component of addressing addiction issues in Albuquerque is making sure people who have committed crimes as a result of their addiction get the help they need. Studies also show that individuals in treatment are less likely to engage in criminal behavior and to experience overdose, by as much as 50 percent.

Through collaboration and innovative thinking, Albuquerque is working with partners to divert people entering the court system into treatment and is in the process of standing up the first-of-its-kind Albuquerque Community Safety Department to provide a non-police response and a community health lens to calls where someone needs assistance for mental health or substance abuse issues. 

“Family and Community Services is committed to helping people suffering from addiction or mental health issues but we know we can’t do this alone,” said Gilbert Ramirez, deputy director of Family and Community Services Department. “That’s why we are working collaboratively with ACS, APD, AFR, City Council and partners in the community to build a network of support that not only takes the strain off of medical professionals and public safety employees but also gets people real help.”

ACS will include trained professionals such as social workers, housing and homelessness specialists, violence prevention and diversion program experts. The department will give 9-1-1 dispatch an option when a community safety response is more appropriate than a paramedic, firefighter or armed police officer. These efforts will bolster expanded investments in violence intervention, diversion programs and treatment initiatives.

Recently, the City announced the new top leadership team at ACS that is tasked with launching and running this reimagined approach to public safety:

  • Mariela Ruiz-Angel is the first-ever director of the department and previously served as the City Coordinator for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs;
  • Jasmine Desiderio is a deputy director and previously served as the COVID-19 Vaccine Project Coordinator at the State of New Mexico Department of Health where she was instrumental in the planning, logistics and operations of implementing the New Mexico COVID-19 vaccine plan; and
  • D’Albert Hall as deputy director and comes to Albuquerque following more than 15 years in Las Vegas, Nevada addressing the needs of adolescents, young adults and their families for Clark County Department of Family Services.

“We need additional resources to address the significant number of calls to APD and AFR that are related to addiction and mental health, and that’s where the ACS comes in,” said Ruiz-Angel. “ACS can respond from a perspective of community health and connect people with resources instead of funneling them to jail or the emergency room.”

Learn more about PATH at cabq.gov/thepath. While there are requirements to be eligible for a voucher, anyone in need of treatment can reach out to service providers funded by the City and they will help you determine next steps. Anyone experiencing an immediate crisis or thoughts of suicide is encouraged to reach out immediately to the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-784-2433 or the USA National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.