Subject: “2015 Behavioral Health Tax Benefits So Far Unrealized”
The benefits of the behavioral health tax are already being realized in several important and beneficial ways.
Behavioral health issues and seizures have reached an all-time high not just in New Mexico, but nationally, over the past three years. This is a major concern for everyone. Many people reading this may have a family member or know someone who suffers from mental health issues. As concerned citizens of our county and volunteer members of the Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) Crisis Sub-Committee, we welcome the opportunity to share facts and invite community input.
The 1/8 of 1% sales tax costs us each about $15 a year. After this measure was approved, four sub-committees were formed to oversee and guide the use of these funds and ensure that they were spent wisely. Community volunteers were selected to serve on the Crisis, Housing, Community Support or Prevention, Intervention and Harm Reduction sub-committees. Steady progress is being made to address these concerns in a progressive, systemic and sustainable manner. Often, BHI funding is leveraged across jurisdictions and involves multiple partnerships with mental health and community support organizations.
The crisis subcommittee decided that the long-term goal was to build a behavioral health crisis center at the University Hospital to provide much-needed services to people in immediate need. However, it was first important to build an infrastructure to address behavioral health concerns and needs at the community level. It was necessary to set aside funds every year to build the center. The grand opening will take place next month after years of saving, planning and preparation.
To provide some of the infrastructure, our committee helped fund six Mobile Crisis Teams (MCTs) in our county. Each team is made up of a highly trained police officer paired with a master’s level clinician to respond to 911 calls regarding behavioral health issues. These MCTs have saved the lives of many people living with mental illness and supported their families and loved ones. Teams can provide emergency resources and transportation, if needed. An additional team, with County Fire and Rescue, has an EMT paired with a clinician for those with medical issues.
Our committee also worked on the following points:
• A CARE unit on Zuni SE that provides detox and addiction treatment and crisis stabilization services.
• The Re-Entry Center, which provides the support, referrals and services needed to help start a new life for those leaving the Metropolitan Detention Center.
As a committee, we are especially excited and proud that the Behavioral Health Center, located in the University of New Mexico hospital complex, will soon be a reality. This is another project supported by funds provided by the Behavioral Health Tax.
Each of these funded projects and services has already helped our community deal with serious long-term behavioral health issues. Each of the other three subcommittees initiated additional proposals that funded other important projects and services in our community.
To summarize, when someone tells you that the benefits of the behavioral health tax are yet to be realized, you can tell them about the Behavioral Health Crisis Center, Mobile Crisis Teams, Care Unit, and Re -Entry Center, among other proactive and fiscally sound approaches. improving mental health and community support resources. That’s a good return on a $15 investment. And these are proposals that come only from the crisis subcommittee. We realize that there are still many issues around mental health and well-being. As we emerge from the pandemic, we are continually looking for ways to improve our collective work.
As you can see, our county benefits from these BHI services. We owe BHI staff our appreciation and gratitude for their work in funding and overseeing these programs.
In closing, we realize that there is still much work to be done to address behavioral health and related issues in our communities. Our demand is the Journal, and our communities help us be more proactive even when we don’t fully agree on the best way forward.