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Santa Fe County to open Behavioral Crisis Center

Work continues on the Santa Fe Community Service Department’s crisis center in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Santa Fe Behavioral Crisis Center got one step closer to completion when Santa Fe County commissioners last week voted to approve the lease for service providers at the center.

This is the first time the county will have a crisis center. The center will have two parts – its existing detoxification and sobering center run by the Santa Fe Recovery Center, and its mental health services run by New Mexico Solutions. Funding for the center was approved by commissioners about a year ago under a $2 million bond.

The yearly operating cost for the detox center is expected to be $300,000, while the $1.5M annual operating budget for the mental health services will be covered by the county, according to Rachel O’Connor, community services director for Santa Fe County. The center will also receive funding from outside sources.

The center can now start providing services as early as late March in its renovated building at 2052 Galisteo Street.

This is the main room of the behavioral health side of the new center. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“I am so excited that we have been able to make it happen for our residents, and people suffering from addiction and who need these services,” Commissioner Anna Hansen said.

Commission Chairman Henry Roybal shared Hansen’s support of the project and said the crisis center is desperately needed in the community.

Commissioner Rudy Garcia also noted that addiction is a nationwide issue and not unique to Santa Fe County.

O’Connor said counties increasingly see people with significant behavioral health issues in their jails, with misdemeanor offenders who would be better served in a different environment.

She also said that, with COVID-19, people may have experienced a crisis related to job loss, the pandemic or social isolation.

“The crisis center is for everyone that is experiencing a short-term crisis,” O’Connor said. “Any of us could experience that at any point in time. It is not just for people that have chronic issues.”

David Ley, executive director of New Mexico Solutions, said the nonprofit plans to begin providing mental health services out of the crisis center in three stages. They will start by receiving referrals from law enforcement and hospitals for people already screened for COVID-19. Then, the center will open up to referrals from other partner agencies that are also screening people and doing telephonic COVID-19 screenings. They hope to open the facility to the general public by this summer.

Of course, Ley said, these stages depend on the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the bathroom and showers in the men’s dormitory on the recovery side of the center. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Both O’Connor and Ley said the crisis center isn’t designed to compete with anyone, but partner with other organizations in the community, such as hospitals, homeless shelters, law enforcement and more. O’Connor said the crisis center is part of the continuum of services the county provides.

The center will operate on a living room model, which is designed to be more homey and comforting instead of clinical, O’Conner said. For example, the center will have a fireplace to make people feel more at home.

She said the crisis center is designed to be a safe place that will offer nursing services, therapy, navigation services and de-escalation models. The center will likely operate from 10 a.m. to midnight.

“Hopefully, we can divert people from … the emergency room or … from ending up in the jails,” Ley said.

He said he wants the crisis center to be a “bridge” for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis to the tools they need to prevent a crisis in the future.

Ley said he hopes the crisis center makes it easier for people to access care because people can easily get lost trying to navigate the health care system.