Editor's Note: This is Part 17 and the final 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.
Maria Morales-Loebl, El Refugio Inc. executive director, presented the agency's needs.
"Thank you for your ongoing leadership and advocacy," Morales-Loebl said to the legislators.
"I have statistics ending June 30," she said. "We served 432 people during the year. We get calls for everything on the crisis line. We served 3,888 meals, but we can only bill for meals for children.
"We fall under the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence," Morales-Loebl continued. "We will advocate for $1 million in additional funds."
She said she had answered the questions in the application for the forum, but had also submitted questions to which the board wants answers.
"June 2012 was the end of Children, Youth and Families Department funding," Morales-Loebl said. "Although there was a 15 percent increase for this year, under the new funding cycle, where we submitted and met certain criteria for the next four years, we are still under a 20 percent decrease in funding from the past. The department made big changes in funding."
She explained that the organization has to decide whether to choose 100 percent cost reimbursement or billable amounts.
"It is no longer a hybrid model, which was 70 percent billable and 30 percent cost reimbursement," Morales-Loebl said. "For rural operations, the hybrid is the best way to provide services. We developed it over years of advocacy.
"The other question I have is what happened at the end of fiscal year 2012?" she asked. "I don't know what can be done with the deficit at the end of fiscal year 2012. Our funding ended at the end of April, because we had totally billed out of funding. We spent another $79,000 through June, for which we never got reimbursed.
"In April, we had a spike in domestic violence," Morales-Loebl said. "It will be hard to absorb the loss. If you look statewide, you will be shocked. So many of the grants, have no administrative costs. We're 24/7, and everything keeps going."
"How are you going to stay open?" Hamilton asked.
"We have to keep going 24/7," Morales-Loebl said. "We closed down in Hidalgo County, and we are only available on call. For the domestic violence offender program, they have to travel to Grant County, because there aren't enough to cover costs for a program in Hidalgo County. We have scaled down other services."
"How many residents do you have?" Hamilton asked.
"We have 11 women and 14 children today," Morales-Loebl said.
Martinez said it was unfortunate the program had to be cut back in Hidalgo County. "Are there court mandates?"
"We only accept referrals," Morales-Loebl said.
"Is there funding from the courts for the offender program?" Martinez asked.
"We bill CYFD a $50 intake fee and the offenders pay $15 per class," Morales-Loebl said. "We have separate programs for men and women, and they still are not sufficient. There are needs we can't cover, such as paperwork. We have programs Wednesday night at GRMC, Thursday morning at CYFD, Monday afternoon and Monday evening in Bayard."
"Were you told beforehand about the choice of 100 percent billable or 100 percent cost reimbursement?" Morales asked.
"We would prefer billable units," Morales-Loebl said, "but there are too many factors. We have capacity in the shelter. Even if no one is in the shelter, we have to stay open 24/7, but we can't bill."
"I presume the coalition will bring the requests," Morales said.
"Yes, it will ask for $1 million additional funding," Morales-Loebl said.
The Gila Regional Medical Center Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Unit (SANE) and the Silver Regional Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) presented their needs together.
Stormy Flamm of SANE said the program is fairly new, and it has enough money for one year. "We have seen 29 at the hospital. We work closely with SASS. Six nurses are trained and paid from the Department of Health, because it is not fair for the victim to be charged. If the victim is younger than 13 years of age, we can't see them here. They have to go to Las Cruces. We want to train for pediatrics."
"The New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault programs is asking for $1 million," Flamm said.
Carrie Lenox, SASS board chairwoman, said the group for two years has been a stand-alone 501c3. "In October, we now can take care of our own finances. I am here on behalf of the victims. One in four women in New Mexico has been or will be sexually assaulted. Here in Grant County, it is 1 in 4.25. It affects all of us and will affect the victims for the rest of their lives.
"I'm also an advocate, which is a difficult job," Lenox said. "Advocates need reimbursement. Often the victim is by herself. Sometimes they want someone to touch them, sometimes not. I want to listen to their stories. When they go home or to a safe place—we help them find a place. There is no shelter, and if they need money for a hotel room, we're there. A woman who has been violently raped may say: 'I don't know if my husband will want me.' We have to change cultures and quit hiding it.
"We are asking for $1 million across the state," Lenox said. "The focus will be for rape crisis centers. We're in a borrowed facility in the Health Council building. We need space for counseling, a safe place for people and for therapists. We can refer people, but I'm not sure if they have no medical insurance how they can get services. We need money."
Kristy Rogers of SASS explained the services the organization offers, with everything free and confidential.
"We are not law enforcement or medical practitioners," Rogers said. "We follow up with assessments on how to empower them. We do counseling referrals, such as to Border Area Mental Health Services. We also help with HUD applications and food stamps. We support them if they go into the criminal justice system. We have a 24/7 crisis line; we advocate 24/7; and we'll talk to a victim whether it was yesterday or 40 years ago. Sexual assault is a huge issue in our community."
Lenox said she almost forgot to say that the SASS executive director, Colleen Boyd, was meeting with other executive directors across the state and was sorry she could not be at the forum.
"It is admirable what you're doing," Hamilton said. "I had no idea we didn't have such a program here. How do you get referrals?"
"We put fliers all over the place, with the little tear off tabs with our phone number," Lenox said. "There are some in the restrooms down the hall. We speak at various events and activities and do tables and hand out information."
Flamm said the victims also come through the hospital. "Before that the emergency room doctors would examine them, but we take a complete assessment. I'm in the room with the victim for two hours to five hours."
"It's really sad we have to provide these services," Martinez said.
Lenox said the state has seven rape crisis centers and 11 SANE units. "It's difficult in rural areas."
"We serve four counties," Flamm said.
Martinez said it was surprising there were not more centers and units.
"People don't want to talk about it," Lenox said.
Martinez said he would have to learn more. "I'm a strong advocate for your program at Gila Regional."
Flamm said she is paid for 10 hours a week to coordinate the program, and "I'm committed to SASS. I'm getting paid for 10 hours for being on call 24/7."
"I know it's challenging with so many stressors," Morales said. "This forum doesn't just impact this community. Colleen shared with us the budget crisis. This is like domestic violence was 20 years ago. I want to make sure we can provide funding. I recommend the request start on the front end on the House side. If they see the love and compassion of you individuals, that will make the most impact."
Mike McMillan, Prospectors president, announced that Prospectors Day in Santa Fe during the legislative session would be January 30.
"Great Job, Prospectors," Martinez said. "This information is very helpful, believe me. Prospectors is the only group to allow us to hear from the community."
Hamilton agreed that it was a "good day."
The Prospectors will meet this month to determine priorities for funding for the area.