Editor's Note: This is part 8 of a multi-part series of articles on the Prospectors' Legislative Communication Forum, held Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, at Western New Mexico University's Light Hall. This article will continue to cover the non-profit/community presentations.
Bruce Ashburn, Prospectors president, served as the moderator in front of Sen. Howie Morales, Rep. Dianne Hamilton and Rep. John Zimmerman.
Patti West represented the Town of Silver City Disabilities Advisory Council.
"The Disabilities Advisory Council is a display of our wonderful community," West said. "The Grant County Community Health Council Silver City, and LifeQuest are huge supporters. We have the only disabilities resource center outside Albuquerque. And it's homegrown and donation-funded. We have had 700 unique visitors since April.
"We have received help from New Mexico Tech Assistance and ARC of New Mexico," West continued. "LifeQuest has used the facility. Western New Mexico University held a great Halloween party there.
"We have no steady source of funding," West said. "We want to complete extending the parking lot and extending the ramp, as well as providing accessible playground equipment. We want mobility access for picnics.
"A lot of the equipment was provided by Western and by parents," she noted. "We have no fence and no security system to safeguard our equipment. It's a huge priority."
Hamilton thanked her and the council for what they are doing.
"I appreciate the work you're doing with the schoolsâ€”Western, Cobre, Silver, Cliff and the town," Morales said.
"We are asking for an appropriation of $50,000," West said. "The building and the grounds are owned by Silver City, which is the fiscal agent.
Lucero (Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director) said the request is not on the town's ICIP.
Morales advised including the request with the Silver City packet. "Do you want pavement or chip seal for the parking lot?"
Lucero said: "It's just a general request. Then we would prioritize on what we could accomplish. In January, I will have everything grouped by local government.
"I want it to be handicapped accessible," Morales said. "I think that should be the highest priority."
Lucero said she would get an estimate.
"I hate to ask for only $50,000, if there is a need for $100,000," Morales said.
"It means a lot to the parents to see the support from the community, and we like to see you at our events," West said.
To a question from Zimmerman about whether the center provides wheelchairs and crutches, West replied: "We help any person with assistive technology."
"We cooperate with the Governor's Commission on Disabilities," West said. "Anything extra or duplicated at UNM, they send to us. We also help veterans and also work with the Senior Center. We bring iPads or computers and show them how to Skype with their kids and grandkids."
"I'm a veteran," Zimmerman said. "It's amazing the disabilities the veterans are coming back with. They do need the help, but won't ask for it. I would like to see your center."
Next to speak were Imagination Library of Grant County founders, Loren and Barbara Nelson.
"We want to update you on Grant County and tell you that we want to expand throughout the state," Barbara Nelson said. "We provide reading readiness and language proficiency by delivering age-appropriate books to those from birth to 5 years of age. It is in collaboration with Silver Health Care and Gila Regional. We deliver books to 1,350 children each month. They are 83 percent of the eligible children. We just sent our 61,500th book this month."
She reported that Dr. Ann Harvey of WNMU measured test scores, comparing two groups of those who received the books and those who didn't. "The scores were higher and significantly higher. Those who received books were at reading proficiency 75 percent, while those who were not receiving the books were at 52 percent proficiency. That is evidence that the program should be replicated throughout the state."
"CYFD has asked for $50,000 to include all pre-school children in the program," Loren Nelson said. "Dolly Parton is the founder of the Imagination Library as part of her Dollywood Foundation.
"The program is now in Grant, Curry, Hidalgo, Sierra, Luna and part of Catron counties," Loren Nelson continued. "This funding will increase access to the 25 existing affiliates, encourage new affiliates and tribal affiliates. The funding is just to pay for and mail the books. The administrative costs are borne by the local affiliates."
"What a wonderful program, so they can read on their own," Zimmerman said. "Especially in our state where reading comprehension is lacking. It goes across to match science. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
"I had a chance to read to some of the recipients," Hamilton said.
"You were our first celebrity reader," Loren Nelson said.
"For years, it was just you two at every event," Morales said. "My hat's off to CYFD for coming to the plate and keeping it in the budget.
"So much has been born in our community," Morales said. "First Born, Tour of the Gila, Clay Festival, Blues Festival all started in our community. I think this program will also make an impact on the state.
"It has an impact on children," he said. "There is no app that replaces a parent's lap. We will show the results and make it a state project. Intervention is always better than retention."
Silver Regional Sexual Assault Support Services Kelli Sierras, executive director, spoke on the program.
"Sexual violence has a lifelong impact," Sierras said. "It affects the family and the community as a whole.
"In fiscal year 2016, we had a budget reduction," she said. "In 2015, we had 20-25 counseling sessions a week. In 2016, we're down to 10 a week. We reduced the size of the office; we are reducing bills.
"Anything that is trauma-focused, we have to refer to other agencies," Sierras continued. "We have reduced session lengths from one hour to 50 minutes. Clients were being seen one time a week. Now they are moved to twice or once a month.
"We don't have walk-in therapy sessions any more," she said. "We are reducing our education and outreach hours. How can we reach people? Our clients are school-aged to senior citizens. We request funding for trauma-based counseling.
"This is a serious issue," Morales said. "Where are we with appropriations?"
"We secured funding from DOH of $85,805 a year," Sierras said.
Morales asked about for law enforcement training.
"We have MOUs with law enforcement and with the Detention Center to provide services," Sierras said. "We have a good relationship with the Grant County Sheriff's Office."
"We saw the need for training, because the victim was being victimized twice," Morales said. "We want to make sure that doesn't happen.
"We are filling the gap by having a Silver City Police Department representative," Sierras said. "We are working to build that relationship, with the Start by Believing program."
"I hope you're put out of business as soon as possible," Hamilton said. "You're doing a difficult job. Not having the problem in my family, it's hard to understand the profundity of the impact."
"I reiterate what Sen. Morales said," Zimmerman commented. "I think sensitivity to the victim is important not to be re-victimized, and not to have to relive the experience. I think why it's not more reported is because the victims blames themselves. Thanks for what you do. I don't know how you do it."
Mimbres Region Arts Council, Kevin Lenkner, executive director, spoke next.
"I'm the new executive director," Lenkner said. "One of the reasons I got involved in the arts is because they have a way of bridging healing and disabilities, a way to cut through all the siloes of needs in a community.
"New Mexico Arts recognizes the importance and talks about model programs," Lenkner said. "When you invest in New Mexico Arts and Tourism, that dollar has a multiplier of three, five, or even eight times.
The Blues Festival is an example of how we have raised economic development.
"Cuts also have a multiplier effect," he continued. "I'm not asking for specific money. Faye McCalmont built the foundation. They brought me here not just to keep the status quo, so I will be building the program."
"I'm glad they brought you here to this fantastic program," Hamilton said. "We're ready to help you."
"I think more money is needed for the arts," Zimmerman said. "By encouraging the arts, it grows the mind."
Morales said he appreciated meeting with Lenkner. "Cultural Affairs is asking for more money."
"I thank you for your outreach to the university," Morales continued. "I encourage arts in the schools. Thank you for removing the fees for children to see performances."
"I have a lot of great ideas," Lenkner said. "I'm looking forward to building more in education."