Editor's Note: This is the Part 16 of a multi-article series on the Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, held at Western New Mexico University on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Community groups presented their needs and concerns to New Mexico Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez, and Sen. Howie Morales.

Mary Stoecker, Rosana Thomas and Susan Wilger gave the presentation on behalf of Local Collaborative 6.

"We are advocating for behavioral health care and needs and to expand behavioral health services," Stoecker said. "Our legislative priorities include school-based health centers, the total community approach and an inmate support program. We are part of a statewide group of local collaboratives."

Thomas, total community approach coordinator, said the program has been around since 2008, encompassing various substance abuse issues.

"The Grant County and Hidalgo County adult drug court is making great strides," Thomas said. "The cost per day is $10 to $12 dollars as opposed to $113 a day in Grant County for incarceration and $58 per day in Hidalgo County. Many of those participating are working and/or going to school. In the Kokopelli program, total community approach entities come together to help people help themselves."

Susan Wilger of Hidalgo Medical Services Center for Health Innovations said she is a long-time member of the Local Collaborative 6.

"We have three school-based health centers—one in Cobre High School, one in Silver High School and one in Lordsburg High School," Wilger said. "Deming lost its funding. We are requesting your support for funding for school-based primary care and behavioral health care. The programs are administered through HMS. The $190,000 in funding from the state is not enough. Behavioral health issues far exceed what we can provide. If there is a school-based health care center, students are more likely to stay in school and graduate.

"We see about 150 students," Wilger said. "They feel comfortable with us, and we can do risk assessments for about 50. We need an additional $2.5 million. We request additional funding for behavioral health issues in schools with C, D, or F grades."

Hamilton commended the group for their "important work. It's important we remove the stigma from alcohol abuse, drug abuse and behavioral health issues."

Martinez described the group as "tenacious at keeping up with legislation and having the programs needed. Will $2.5 million be adequate?"

Wilger said the amount needed varies by school district. "We're in a good situation, where we can bill for insurance. Some students only have Medicaid. If the student is 14 years old or older, he or she can seek services without parental permission. Out of the funding requested, I think each center would receive only about $45,000. That doesn't go far."

"Is the $600,000 appropriation for the total community new funding?" Morales asked.

"We have been receiving a similar amount for four years," Stoecker said. "Last year we were cut. We are asking for maintenance and growth. We can show the positive outcomes. This model has worked well."

"So, in reality, this is not new," Morales said. "It is an increase of $100,000 above what you received this year. I am very supportive of the school-based program, but I personally would not use the C, D, or F ranking, because it is not sustainable because the system is not stable. I would look at poverty levels."

"We appreciate that information and will take it back," Wilger said. "Medicaid expansion would be a plus for the program."

The next presentation was from Life Quest Inc. by several representatives.

"We want to give you information of our concern regarding the future of the program," Life Quest executive director Evangeline Zamora said. "We are facing challenges under the DD waiver. We serve four communities. The early intervention program, which serves children from 0 to four year of age and the adults, who are receiving care, are under the DD waiver."

Ramona Crum, early intervention program director, said the free entitlement is under IDEA part C. "The program has changed. The child has to transition out of the program, when he or she turns three years of age. A parent can no longer choose to let the child stay until the age of four."

"We serve a large area from here to Reserve, down to Luna County and Hidalgo County," Crum said. "We have a difficult time recruiting therapists because the area is so large and rural. We have a bilingual population in Deming. In Hidalgo County, we have limited resources, so we cannot serve all those who want services. In Catron County, it is hard to get on the list for services, because a therapist has to drive to Glenwood, Quemado and Reserve. We have so many children who need intervention, but we have limited resources."

Zamora said of the 1,400 children in the FIT program, 250 are in the area.

"We lost 141 due to transition when they reached three years of age," Yvonne Carbajal said. "Some went to schools and some to day care."

Zamora said the challenges include travel and transportation costs. "We are going to the university recruiting."

Deb Frasca concurred that the challenges are huge to providers across the state, including changes in DD waivers and rates. "We are dropping the supportive living program. I ask you to support us and prevent more cuts. Put pressure on the Department of Health for the assessments."

"We are the only non-profit to provide services in the four-county area," Zamora said.

"When will the outstanding SIS (Support Intensity Scale) assessment evaluation take place?" Morales asked.

"Here only about one-third of the clients have been assessed," Frasca said. "They have not even been scheduled."

Morales asked what the agency would do if the SIS process were stopped.

"We would go back to the way we are doing things right now," Frasca said. "Some have been assessed, but we have no services."

"How about the process of getting people off the DD waivers?" Morales asked. "I think former secretary Torres was surprised that so many thought the waiver wasn't working. We need to talk more about FIT in further discussions. We need to increase reimbursements, but the Human Services Department is difficult to get to the table."

"The changes to the DD waivers and how it is affecting those most in need is dramatic," Martinez said. "We need to continue visiting to see what we can do."

Hamilton thanked Zamora for sharing the information.

"There is no waiting list for early education evaluations," Crum said. "They are in the program within 45 days. The problem is when there is no therapist. When we service 135 kids, if they need physical therapy or speech therapy, it is a problem. We are working with Western to increase the numbers in the occupational therapy program."

The next article will address the presentations by El Refugio Inc., and the Gila Regional Medical Center Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Unit and the Silver Regional Sexual Assault Support Services, which presented together.

Live from Silver City

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