Mental Health

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The nation’s prison system is in crisis. Prison and jail populations ballooned to an all-time high, and the number of people on probation and parole has doubled.

Meanwhile, we're spending more on incarceration than we ever have—and most of that money comes out of the states’ pockets.

Ed Williams

New Mexico’s first long-term addiction recovery center tailored specifically to teenagers and young adults, Serenity Mesa, opened its doors this week.

Up until now, youth in the state who are struggling with addiction could go to detox, short-term rehab, or jail, but then they get released without continuing support. Serenity Mesa founder Jen Weiss says that’s led to a lot of relapses.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Just about every woman who finds herself behind bars in New Mexico will get out eventually. The question is, will she be able to restart her life, rejoin her family? There aren’t enough services in this state for all the women who want to break the cycles that landed them in jail or prison.

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For hundreds of people in New Mexico, getting out of jail or prison hinges on whether there’s a bed in a halfway house, a slot in a treatment program or space in a mental health facility. Until a spot opens up, they remain behind bars, and it costs taxpayers thousands of extra dollars while they wait.

Using audio and video files obtained from the Albuquerque Policy Department, KUNM's public health project is investigating officer-involved shootings with an eye on mental health, substance abuse, poverty and post-traumatic stress disorder. It's part of a larger conversation about where health intersects with the criminal justice system and public policy.

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  LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Another Arizona-based nonprofit has confirmed it plans to cease providing Medicaid-funded mental health services in southern New Mexico.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Tucson-based La Frontera plans a staggered transition to phase out its operations in Doña Ana County and several counties in southwestern New Mexico.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

After less than two years serving southeastern New Mexico, a behavioral health provider will shutter its programs on March 31, leaving hundreds without services.

What does this mean for Roswell and its courts, which were ordering offenders into treatment there?

Judge Freddie Romero presides over the drug court for juveniles in Chaves County. It’s not what you might imagine. The judge is warm and friendly. The kids who approach the podium with their parents in tow are everyday teenagers—jeans, T shirts, the occasional piercing.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

There have been more than 300,000 civilian gun deaths in the United States in the last 10 years. That’s right up there with the number of military casualties in the nation’s biggest wars. The country's surgeon general says gun violence is a public health issue.

But in rural parts of New Mexico, many people use guns as tools in their daily lives. 

"This is my 12-gauge shotgun, and I’ll say it’s definitely the most versatile tool in the gun cabinet," Billy Ogle said. "And you can take anything from the smallest game to the largest game in North America down."

Rita Daniels

Three groups called for homeless people and people with mental illnesses to be represented in the process to reform the Albuquerque Police Department. Last week the groups filed a motion in federal court.

The ACLU joined forces with Disability Rights New Mexico and the Native American Voters Alliance to intervene in the settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Albuquerque.

Courtesy of Paul Ielacqua

KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting project has been investigating Albuquerque Police Department shooting deaths with an eye on behavioral health issues. This week, we’re looking at officer mental health.

Paul Ielacqua was an APD Aviation officer from 2001 to 2008 but has worked in law enforcement—at the Bernalillo County jail and Conchas Lake—since 1996. He talked to KUNM about how police handle their own mental wellness in high-stress situations.

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Another Arizona-based behavioral health provider is planning to shut down operations in New Mexico. La Frontera is one of five nonprofits that took over for local providers accused of fraud. Turquoise Health and Wellness announced earlier this year they would close their New Mexico offices on April 1st.

Substance abuse treatment is not available for everyone who needs it in New Mexico, and this shortage is at the root of some tragic altercations with police.

Mike Gomez met me in a park in Albuquerque, holding a framed photo of his son Alan. “He was a good kid, a normal kid,” he said. “He graduated high school on time. He was a Little League All-Star.”

A New Mexico legislator is trying to help inmates sign up for Medicaid around the state. 

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Bernalillo Commissioners will vote Tuesday night on whether to increase taxes and increase mental health care in the county.

The gross receipts tax increase of one-eighth of a percent would generate $15 to $20 million. At the top of a mental health care wish list? A crisis center where people could go to be stabilized and plugged into services, instead of being arrested and sent to jail.  

MDC Chief Phillip Greer

The Bernalillo County jail’s chief resigned more than nine months ago. Phillip Greer filled the position last month at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the 39th biggest jail in the country. Greer hails from Minnesota, where he was the executive director of corrections for three counties, and he has a background in assuring jails comply with national standards.  

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Members of a National Academy of Sciences committee presented a report on high incarceration rates at the State Bar of New Mexico this morning. The NAS says the growth in lockups in the United States is historically unprecedented and unlike any other country in the world.

The U.S. has too many people behind bars, according to the NAS report, and the high rate of imprisonment has surpassed any public safety benefit.

Art by Nani Chacon courtesy of Young Women United

Bernalillo County voters overwhelmingly came out on Tuesday in favor of a tax increase to pay for more mental health services. 

Bernalillo County residents with addictions or mental health problems may be closer to having more access to treatment, now that voters here have showed their support for a one-eight percent tax increase to fund more behavioral health services.

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University of New Mexico researchers are estimating one-third of Bernalillo County residents with mental health problems didn’t get the care they needed last year.

Researchers at UNM say over 150,000 people in Bernalillo county had mental health issues that needed treatment in 2013, but only 98,000 of those people received care from local providers.

Denicia Cadena

Christina Dominguez is a single mother of three kids in Albuquerque. Her primary interest in the election is the mental health poll question on the ballot in Bernalillo County. The question is only advisory, which means it wouldn’t become a law if passed, but it’s intended to allow the public to weigh in on mental health funding.

Rita Daniels

Tuesday marked the first of 10 meetings of the Collaborative on Police-Community Relations in Albuquerque. Police officers and commanders attended, along with grieving families, mental health advocates and neighborhood association representatives.

Mayor Richard Berry said the process should yield a document that outlines expectations for effective community policing.  The Department of Justice investigated APD after a high-number of officer-involved shootings, and findings indicated city police use excessive force.

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Bernalillo County jail Chief Ramon Rustin’s resignation took effect Monday. After three years as the head of the largest jail in New Mexico, Rustin stepped down saying he needed to meet family obligations. 

KUNM spoke with Rustin in February about mental health care at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

  Jail staff says MDC is the largest mental health provider in the state. Chief Rustin agreed. In fact, Rustin put that as No. 2 on the list of problems at the Bernalillo County lockup. So what's No. 1? Overcrowding, he said.

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UPDATE Feb.

New Mexico Leads Nation In Per Capita Mental Illness

Oct 30, 2013

A new federal report ranks New Mexico as the state with the highest percentage of citizens with mental illness. But the 416-page survey also reveals states in the Southwest are above average in many areas like access to mental health services.

The purpose of the Behavioral Health 2012 report is to look at where states stand in relation to national averages. The hope is for policy makers to examine areas of the mental health system that need help.