Editor's Note: This is Part 11 and the final article of a multi-part series on the Prospectors' forum, which was held on Dec. 9. Then the holidays happened, and the rest of the articles did not get written.
Matt Elwell spoke on behalf of Behavioral Health Local Collaborative 6: "I am the Luna County Detention Center Administrator and Mike Carrillo is the Grant County Detention Center Administrator.
"The detention centers have become mental health centers," Elwell said. "Many of the inmates are self-medicating to deal with what has happened to them. We are developing an inmate support system as a three-county initiative with Grant, Luna and Hidalgo.
"We want to use the detention centers to curb recidivism," he continued. "We want to take the incarcerated, give them treatment and follow them out of the jails. We want to provide them the same caregivers for the next six months after they leave the jail.
He said the model now is to get them out with three or four days' worth of medication. "I think they come right back because they have mental health issues. The system is broken. We will deal with families if the payees are not appropriate. We will go to the courts to get the appropriate payee and caregivers.
"I was years in law enforcement," Carrillo said. "The first time I went into the jail I met inmates I had arrested in the 70s and 80s. They just kept coming back.
"When I came back this time, it was generations," Carrillo continued. "They were the grandchildren of those I had arrested. Recidivism is generational. It is the single largest issue in communities.
"I consider our plan as after care," he said. "We spend $174,000 for health care services. Recidivism is like sexual assault and drug abuse. It's a problem in the community."
Elwell said a detox facility is needed in the area. "We are in the beginning stages of developing it.
"Mike, I'm glad you're back home," Rep. Dianne Hamilton said to Carrillo. "It's so sad today that people don't want to see anything done for prisoners. What is the answer?"
"I think the key is the individual himself," Carrillo said. "They have to turn the key to decide. If we don't provide the services to help them turn the key, it might not happen. I don't believe we can save everyone, but we need to reduce recidivism."
"Are you asking for funds?" Hamilton asked.
"We are asking for $563,000 over a three-year period for the three counties and one half-time person through the Local Collaborative 6," Carrillo said. "We will set up the continuum of resources. We need the individual to administer and coordinate the after-care services. We will prepare the inmates for release."
"It's an eye-opener," Elwell said. "It's really sad to have the situation, but a comparison of costs to detention will show it's worthwhile. It costs $28,000 a year per inmate. This program pays for itself if it cuts recidivism. Incarceration, the hospitals and the ERs all save."
"Most decisions are based on finances," Rep. Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez said. "The end result is that inmates will go through treatment, education and medication. Are there any other programs?"
"A few centers have in-house programs, but none has the after care," Elwell said. "I think if we work with the families and inmates for six months, we will see a drop in recidivism."
"Where do you take the intoxicated?" Martinez asked.
"We detox in jail," Elwell said.
"We have medical personnel, but we have to get a medical release from the hospital and then they are released to the Detention Center where they get detox," Carrillo said.
"There is a consortium to address this," Martinez said. "I've been talking to Commissioner Hall. I'm glad to see this."
"It's a big issue, but I have a concern with $563,000 to fund it," Sen. Howie Morales said.
"That funds 2½ positions over the three-year period including travel and all salary," Elwell said. "We will add our own resources for 3½ positions. The counties will provide in-kind with vehicles, supplies and office space."
Morales said the plan was endorsed by the Health and Human Services Committee.
"Luna County will be the fiscal agent," Elwell said.
"I think the test will come with the 2½ positions and whether we need more or less, once we get into the resources needed," Carrillo said. "The unknowns are whether it will be sufficient."
LifeQuest Inc. Chief Executive Officer Evangeline Zamora said the organization has two major services—adult and early childhood.
Joseph Jenson, early childhood coordinator, said he has stepped in to help with the birth to age 3 with or at risk for developmental disabilities. It's the most critical time for brain development.
"Travel is a challenge," Jenson said. "We cannot limit services to maximize referrals. We are increasing the marketing in day cares and schools and looking at increasing the reimbursement rates. Frequently, we cannot offer competitive salaries for specialties, but we want to decrease staff turnovers.
Deb Frasca, adult services and chief operating officer, noted that the legislators are familiar with the DD waiver systems and struggles with reimbursement.
"We had a 5 percent cut to DDSD and a 5 percent cut in client referrals," Frasca said. "Our priority in 2014 is to get people on the waiting list and then to get them off the waiver. Please consider supporting an increase in reimbursement rates.
"Getting them off the list and onto the waiver, and not just off the waiver is important," she said. "If we can't get the resources, then we have a bigger problem."
"Two years ago, new systems were put in place, which made changes," Zamora said. "Folks under state general funding no longer get services. We are the only service provider."
"You've kept me updated," Morales said. "How many therapists have you lost due to uncompetitive salaries?"
"In speech therapy, we have lost our full-time person and at least 50 percent of our clients need speech and language therapy," Jenson said.
Zamora said it's especially hard to find therapists for Catron County, because travel is non-reimbursable. "We are facing unknowns, because we never know what the needs are of a child coming into the program."
"We serve 257 in the early childhood program," Jenson said. "From 0-3 is a short window."
Maria Morales-Loebl, El Refugio Inc. executive director, said: "Every year, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence comes to the Legislature. As a member of the coalition, I'm asking for support for their request."
"We are currently facing a change in HUD funding, which has provided critical support," Morales-Loebl said. "In its priority, it will eliminate supportive and in-transition housing. HUD wants to address the homeless.
"Cutting funding for domestic violence shelters will be tragic," she continued. "We also face reduced or eliminated critical funding for advocates who work weekends and nights. We know we're the only shelter in southwest New Mexico. They told us we should anticipate a budget cut.
"Domestic violence remains a priority of the Health Council, which is trying to address prevention," Morales-Loebl said. "El Refugio for 30 years has been providing crisis intervention, with our core services being emergency shelter, victim advocacy, treatment and offender programs. I hope the core services remain a priority.
"I want to point out we are in our 30th year of community service," she continued. "As stewards, we will look at long-term and short-term needs. So many things are intertwined, it is a concern for us.
"If 40 referrals are sent to us, 15 are no-shows," she said. "The judicial system is having a difficult time dealing with non-compliance. It is unacceptable when it comes to accountability. If it is part of being convicted, the person should be in compliance."
"I'm trying to find the request," Morales said.
"I will get it from the coalition," Morales-Loebl said. "We're 100 percent billable units, but if we provide three months of services there are no reimbursements. Rural programs have problems with drawdowns. The cutbacks in legal aid also impact us."
"I am assured that there will be requests for legal aid positions," Morales said. "With your billable units, you have to have someone there all the time."
"A lot of the services we provide, we can't bill for," Morales-Loebl said.
"We are open 24/7 even if no one is in there. These hours are non-billable, but we still have costs."
"The budget presented is $800,000 for the full budget?" Martinez asked.
"That is deferred income," Morales-Loebl replied. "We have six or seven funding services. The CYFD funding is the largest. We are pretty full right now. It's hard when there are lots of situations.
"One of the trends is a high level of substance abuse and mental health issues," she said. "Sometimes there are limited to no resources for the problems."
The session ended about 4:45. The comments will be compiled into a notebook for the legislators to refer to at the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 21 and lasts for 30 days.