County awards $10 million for behavioral health - Albuquerque Journal

County awards $10 million for behavioral health

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Endorphin Power Company has made the most of the old church in Albuquerque’s International District, a building that for 12 years has supported clients on their path away from drug abuse and homelessness.

But the nonprofit sober living organization has something even better in mind for the future.

Endorphin Power Company, a sober living organization for people who experienced homelessness due to addiction, is looking to demolish its current community services building in Albuquerque’s International District and replace it with a new, 8,000-square-foot version to serve clients living in both its housing and the larger community. Bernalillo County is contributing $195,000 to the project through its behavioral health tax. (Courtesy of Buffalo Design Architects)

Executive Director Jeffrey Holland said EPC plans to demolish its “community building” and start fresh, offering a place for its live-in clients to get everything they need – from counseling to social support and yoga – in one place, while also further extending its reach into the larger community. Even people who do not live there could come to see therapists and attend support group meetings or simply walk in from the street for help navigating the city’s larger social services landscape.

Holland, who notes that the center is in a “high need” area, believes it could possibly also provide incubator space for those trying to launch businesses.

“We want to reimagine the idea of a communal building,” Holland said. “We all know what ‘community centers’ look like, with basketball courts and that stuff, but have we ever thought of an idea of a ‘community services’ building?”

It will be a significant undertaking that will cost an estimated $3 million. Bernalillo County is contributing $195,000 through a new behavioral health tax outlay.

For the first time since it began collecting the tax in 2015, the county called on local providers to identify any gaps in the behavioral health care system and explain how they could fill them. It allocated $10 million to help providers add or upgrade facilities and to cover costs associated with starting up programs or expanding services.

Margarita Chavez-Sanchez, director of the county’s behavioral health services department, called it casting a “wider net.” The county typically awards contracts based on already established areas of focus; specific priorities include mobile crisis teams and programming for at-risk youth.

This funding was less narrowly defined.

“It allows our community and providers who are the experts to tell us where they saw those holes (in the behavioral health landscape) and how to address those holes,” Chavez-Sanchez said.

The opportunity attracted major interest.

When the county held its first meeting to explain the proposal process, so many people packed the room that the fire marshal showed up. The county had to reschedule the session for a larger venue.

A total of 47 providers ultimately submitted proposals. The county is funding 10 of them at varying amounts via contracts that extend as long as three years.

The Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico will use the funding to “expand even further and to meet the demand caused by the COVID pandemic, caused by overdoses, DWI deaths, cancer, heart attack (and) all of the tragic causes of death that affect our citizens,” executive director Jade Richardson Bock said in a video presentation recently given to the Bernalillo County Commission.

Crossroads for Women, which provides housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women, will buy a new property to accommodate its growing programs.

ARCA will use its money to help clients recovering from an acquired brain injury, any type of brain damage that happens after birth from a wide variety of causes. The money will go toward a planned intake and assessment facility that the nonprofit’s leaders say will help bridge the gap between acute injury care and the possible return to independent living.

The center will include bedrooms for temporary stays, therapy areas and more, said Michele Cody, ARCA’s chief development officer.

It is a transition point Cody said does not currently exist locally, a place where “you can help (clients) and assess their progress in developing the skills they need to move to the next step.”

The next step, she said, could be one of two group homes ARCA already operates for acquired brain injury survivors or maybe a return to their family home.

While many people might not associate a brain injury with behavioral health, Cody said it “absolutely” is. She said that many people who are homeless have suffered a brain injury and, though every case is different, such injuries can lead to behavioral health challenges.

“I’m so pleased that the county is taking this on,” she said of supporting the project, “because it is desperately needed in our community.”

Since 2015, the county has collected the behavioral health tax, which is expected to yield about $22 million this fiscal year. The county has nearly that much in programming budgeted this year, but revenue had piled up in the early years of the tax. The $10 million comes from that balance.

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