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Peer-driven teams to respond to mental health, drug abuse calls

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Bernalillo County officials on Monday presented a check of $523,542 to Youth Development Inc., to assemble a trio of community engagement teams to help individuals and families “cope with the effects of living with mental illness and substance abuse disorders in the comfort of their homes and communities.”

Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Charlene Pyskoty gave that description during a news conference, explaining that the CETs, will respond to people in the community, “and work to connect them to the support they need to be healthy and successful.”

The announcement comes in time for National Mental Health Awareness Month, which is observed through the end of May.

The money will provide for three community engagement teams, each with two peers, a prescribing medical or mental health provider, an independently licensed social worker, and a clinical counselor who will have responsibility for oversight of the peers, according to Margarita Chavez-Sanchez, director of the county’s Department of Behavioral Health.

Pyskoty said the teams “will have immediate access to a larger team of behavioral health clinicians and support, in the event that the peer is unable to provide the needed support in the moment.”

The peer-driven team approach is what makes the CETs “such a vital component in the behavioral health continuum,” she said, adding that team members ultimately will help individuals “avoid the criminal justice system and emergency mental health systems whenever possible.”

Accepting the check was Diego Gallegos, chief executive officer for YDI, who said that peers on the teams will be better able to engage with those who need help because the peers “have either been challenged with mental health issues or have been involved in some type of substance issue.”

CETs will also take referrals from first responders and mobile crisis teams for pre- and post-crisis intervention.

The CETs are expected to serve about 1,200 people over a 12 month period, Chavez-Sanchez said.

The contract with YDI is for two years at $523,542 each year.

Anyone needing assistance from a community engagement team should call 505-910-6357. The line is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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