Photos by Lynn Janes (below article); Article by Mary Alice Murphy

The Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce hosted several speakers who continue to participate in creating a Grant County Resilience Action Plan.

Laura Phelps, Social Performance Manager| Freeport-McMoRan | New Mexico Operations, led off the effort with an online survey for attendees to choose what they thought were the greatest issues in Grant County. The number 1 issue, according to luncheon guests, consists of behavioral health and substance abuse. Other issues identified by attendees included housing, the economy and workforce, water issues and food insecurity.

"We have to think about this generation and future generations as they relate to quality of life," Phelps said.

Items listed in the summary created by the participants in the plan, include:

The Economy sees risks of population decline and workforce participation decline, plus when the mines close, the loss of a economic base industry. Potential solutions include:
Establishment of a business network under the lead of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments;
Development of a career and technical education program, under the Career and Technical Education Action Committee;
Recruiting new industries under the lead of Grant County; and
A Copper Collaborative, which leads on issues of the Mining District.

The risks of natural disasters must address preparation for evacuations caused by flooding or fires and is led by the Grant County Emergency Manager.

Leadership faces a risk, because community leaders play a role in multiple organizations, so the loss of any one leader could have major impacts on community organization. To address the issue, the Grant County Community Foundation is working on a map of the non-profit and local government ecosystem. The Grant County Community Foundation and Future Forge work together to create a future leader mentoring program

Because mental health and healthy living conditions are key factors that impact behavioral health, The Center for Health Innovations focuses on improvement of mental health crisis intervention. Grant County leads on improving mental health awareness.

Healthy living conditions is also led by Grant County under Housing. The county focuses on establishment of a housing working group to foster collaboration to facilitate planning, to advocate for policies and to lead initiatives to support housing development and rehabilitation.

Stephen Lindsey of Future Forge said: "We have an amazing community coming together to create this resilience plan. We have created a detailed plan to address the issues. I am excited to announce this ground-breaking initiative aimed at fortifying our communities against risks that threaten our communities and residents.

He said among among the keys to a thriving community are the mentorship of upcoming leaders. "We must think about the longevity of the community and the leaders. We have to think about the long-term stability of our private and commercial sectors. We are developing a pro-active strategy. We must consider and think about what we can do now to help the future of our communities here. So we are looking now at strategies that can prevent what may jeopardize the community, and take corrective measures with an action plan. The plan addresses our response capabilities." According to a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), he said that social vulnerability in Grant County is highest in the Mining District, followed by Silver City and also the southeastern part of the county.

Lindsey said the plan is to work with organizations, municipalities and residents to come up with a workable detailed plan of action to mitigate shortcomings and risks. "We are using this plan to safeguard our economy to minimize the loss of major employers and enhancing our response to things like natural disasters. This plan is a testament to addressing the welfare and longevity of Grant County. Please, if you see anything we missed, talk to us. We want to work with the community and get feedback and input."

The next speaker, Stacey Cox, director of Center for Health Innovations, said the results of the community survey and interviews with individuals and focus groups will help the organization fine-tune its response to the health and economic issues the community faces.

{Editor's Note: She spoke extremely fast, so it was hard to take notes, and on the recording, her voice was muffled. This author did the best she could do to get the highlights, but if a reader notices something amiss, please notify us at .]

"I am finding out that a lot of people don't know what we do," Cox said. "We run a public health institute across the state. We work on increasing wellness. We are one of two public health institutes in the state. The other is located at UNM (University of New Mexico). We do research, advocacy, surveys and a number of other things."

She said when she came on about a year ago, she asked about a behavioral health map. She found out there was none, at the state, regionally or locally. "One of the things we are working on right now is a behavioral health system analysis. Basically, it's figuring out what the system looks like, what's going on in Grant County specifically. Not just who are the providers, but where we are being overwhelmed. When I worked in Las Cruces we were paid to work on Silver City, but no one ever checked on them. Right now we are trying to pull from HSD (Human Services Department) and DOH (Department of Health) on where the funding is and what it is paying for people to do. And is the work being done? What we will end up with is a report, a visual of the system, who does what and what people think."

She said the report will help Grant County better understand its capacity to deal with behavioral health as a region, and including substance misuse, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and crisis response, as well as help lay the ground for policy, legislative requests and regional planning for behavioral health intervention and care. She said they would use state and county data to fill in the holes.

"We have to put everything together," Cox said.

She said they have to learn from people who are isolated and lonely. "Grant County leads the state in a lot of ways, but on behavioral health, people don't know where to go. This report will also involve a poster put up in public buildings."

Cox announced another behavioral health forum on Dec. 7, at the Conference Center.

"We're also working on 988, which is the mental crisis phone number," she said. "We want to help people not be in turmoil all the time."

She noted that more than 30 percent of the county budget is spent on the Detention Center, where many of those with behavioral health issues end up.

She said that in places where crisis centers and intervention really work, such as in Oklahoma, it keeps the crime and incarcerations down.

Cox said that emotions, if not dealt with, build up and make the person unhealthy. "The Public Health Institute focuses on wellness."

Western New Mexico University President Joseph Shepard spoke on Career and Technical Education. The committee also includes Erich Bower of Freeport-McMoran and County Commission Chair Chris Ponce.

Shepard noted that a new facility, which could be put on a parcel of Freeport land, would cost between $35 million and $50 million. "We have, at the university, classes in some of these trades. but we've been working with Freeport and the county.
We are also having conversations about using the Armory in Santa Clara. We are asking for legislative funding of about $7 million or $8 million for starting on development of the property or a potential purchase that would allow us to accelerate these programs and to get them in and out of the door much quicker.

Bower said: "Freeport-McMoRan is proud to be a partner in this effort. Most of our employees that stay and make a long-term commitment to the company and the county grew up here, and they have deep roots here. But many that come in from outside the area don't stay long-term. Some of the careers or skills sets that we need training here include plumbing, residential and commercial electricians, HVAC installer and repairman, diesel diagnostic mechanics, process control techs, CDL drivers, cosmetologists, renewable energy techs and welding. We want to buy into this technical school to develop a long-term work force for this county."

Ponce said: "As soon as the county heard about this, we knew it was something we wanted to participate in. Some kids are not interested in learning accounting or history, being a teacher. They want to use their hands. So when we heard about this, I thought of all the kids who would like to stay here, but have to leave to get the training. Also, we're headed into renewable energy. It's sad to leave some of our citizens behind. We would have to bring in people from outside, if we don't get this education here. I worked at Freeport in HR (human resources), and it was sad that we had to bring in people from outside. This is dear to my heart. It is not a political issue. I have parents talking to me saying their child is taking classes somewhere else, but they want to come back. I ask you to support this to build up our county and our economy. Santa Clara, Bayard, Hurley, the Chamber of Commerce, Grant County, even Sierra County and Luna County have given us letters of support. We are waiting to hear from Hidalgo County. The governor has said she wants tech schools in every county. We're looking for support from other entities to give kids better access to the education they want."

Shepard said they are also working to coordinate with the school districts, Silver and Cobre, as well as the university, so "we hire one instructor to teach auto mechanics, for instance, so we don't duplicate efforts. Thank you for all your support. I encourage you to talk to your legislators so we can get the $8 million to get this off the ground."

Lindsey said he is a product of Western's electrical technology classes. "I've worked as an electrician for about 10 years now. Trade skills and tech skills are totally necessary for the longevity of any infrastructure in any community around our country."

He said the next portion would address the natural disaster plan by County Emergency Manager Scot Fuller. He said one of his top priorities, as he has been in the county only since September, is an evacuation plan in case of natural disaster. One thing that came up was the Rico Fire in June near Pinos Altos. "Some of the post-fire analysis showed there were some problems with evacuation, as well as problems with sheltering. So we need to improve the way we do evacuations. One of the first things I did was get with FEMA and get us to be part of IPAWS (integrated public alert and warning system). It's like the Amber alert system, with an alert going to every cell phone in the county or within a geo-fenced area. The notifications would also go out to the local radio and TV stations."

Fuller said he has applied for a grant for the Wildland Fire Protection plan, which will involve local evacuation route plans. "We need to designate the corridors in case the main corridors become blocked with traffic or emergency traffic. We will need a lot of community collaboration to make the plan effective. Our emergency action plan hasn't been updated since 2014. It needs revision to meet standards. If there is evacuation, we need shelters. I'm working with the Red Cross. It's their bailiwick. The Red Cross has a 100-person shelter trailer and a 50-person trailer that can be brought in. We have identified two shelters, this conference center and the Middle School gymnasium is a second shelter. With sheltering, you also have to feed people . I got with the Roadrunner food bank and the Silver City emergency shelter and feeding program to feed folks, until something can be concretely established. The Red Cross policy is to have a shelter in place within two hours of a disaster. I think that's being optimistic. With winter coming on, the Red Cross is going to identify some warming shelters in the county. They will be posted on the county's website and official Facebook page."

Bernadette Smyth of the Grant County Community Foundation said: "We deal with non-profits, which are the best kept economic secret in the country. They contribute millions to the economy, and they work under duress all the time. If you volunteer for any agency, you are asked to volunteer for others, too, and many of you do. We will map the non-profits and find out gaps and how to fill them."

The last presentation came from Grant County Manager Charlene Webb.

Webb said: "It was no surprise to anyone here that housing rose to the top of issues that need addressing, currently and into the future. We need collaboration and conservation before we can see any type of development. I will ask Patricia Cano, who is working very hard on the issue and starting conversations on how we attack the problem."

Cano said she is a lifelong resident of Grant County and "I care enough for my community that I want to try to take action when something is needed. I have formed a task force for homelessness and housing. What I have learned is there is a lot of collaboration, but then there a lot of people, not tied to an organization who try to address things, not knowing that someone else is working on it. This plan is great, but people need to know about it, so they need to know the action that is being done. Nothing in this plan is going to be successful until we address housing. We have to have serious discussions; we need to bring those who are interested in investing in housing. My landlord is willing to build an apartment complex if you can get him some help. So I need to connect him with the people who can help get it built and get it built soon. We don't have five years until the next plan is done. To end, I would like to invite you to a meeting when Farmington is going to come and speak to us about how they have come up with solutions."

[Editor's Note: Please see the report at ]

Webb said the county has an affordable housing plan, so they can go out to seek funding to do the process to build. "We have to have the plan to get the funding."'

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director, said when she started her career, she didn't know all the opportunities that were out there, but "I have made efforts to learn about the funding sources. I am involved locally, regionally and statewide, and I can tell you that based on these priorities, I know the opportunities that could fulfill the needs in this plan. We want to show and prove that we have actions. You can find this resilience plan on my website, and on all of our websites. It's out opportunity to leverage funding for a lot of these issues."

Cruz presented a new membership certificate to Cari Lemon for her Take Flight Consulting Services.

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