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Early intervention battles mental illness

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, communities across the nation will convene to raise awareness on the importance of mental health and the needs of children, youth, adults and their families.

Under Mayor Richard J. Berry’s leadership on this issue, in Albuquerque we are committed to finding solutions focused on early interventions and improved access to services – every day, not just in May, by hearing from our residents through community-based dialogues.

Long before the recent high profile events, the city initiated steps to better understand the needs of our residents.

Community-based dialogues include representation from people having experience with mental health issues, family members, young people, mental health providers and first responders from both the Albuquerque Fire and Police Departments.

The dialogues provide opportunity to engage participants in meaningful conversations through a facilitated process of sharing experiences, discussing needs and recommending solutions.

Berry hosted the launch of a Greater Albuquerque dialogue on July 20, 2013 – one of the first cities in the nation to conduct a “Creating Community Solutions” dialogue with 300 residents participating.

The July 20 event was held in response to a White House Call to Action to increase understanding through a National Dialogue on Mental Health. The national initiative is intended to increase awareness about mental health and ultimately improve the mental health systems for individuals, families, schools and communities.

Since last July, a diverse action planning committee has taken the results from the July meeting as a baseline from which to work and move this important effort forward through continuing community dialogues within the four quadrants that make up the city and the two surrounding counties in Valencia and Sandoval.

To date, nearly 500 residents have participated in the dialogues, with the remaining four community-based conversations scheduled throughout the summer.

Those that have participated thus far are asking for a continuation of the dialogues; increased services, in particular for youths; improved access to services; and more education on mental health to increase understanding.

In Albuquerque, we welcome constructive discussions on how we may improve the lives of our residents and how we can help those who experience emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges and families to talk about their experiences and take action to seek help when needed.

We welcome your participation as we move forward with this important work towards early interventions and improved access to services.

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