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ABQ councilor proposes tax hike for mental health, drug services

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City Councilor Klarissa Pena is proposing a one-eighth cent gross-receipts tax that would pay for mental-health and substance-abuse services.

An eighth of a cent is usually enough to raise about $16 million a year. It would be city’s first tax increase since 2003, though the city has cut taxes a few times since then.

Pena’s full news release is below, and I’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.


During this challenging time, as emotions run high, it is important that we come together as a community for solutions not only to restore the public’s confidence in APD but also to resolve some of the underlying issues that plague our community which have led us to this point.

In her statements regarding the Department of Justice investigation of the APD, Jocelyn Samuels stated that a lot of the most troubling police incidents involved people with behavioral health issues and the need to address the mental health crisis we have in the city.

That is why I am proposing an excise tax in the amount of 1/8th (0.125%) of gross receipts to be used for the purpose of funding “Essential Services” for new or expanded mental health and substance abuse programs, We must also develop coordination efforts between governmental, community based and non-profit mental health providers with local law enforcement and incarceration agencies/institutions to ensure the safety of those with a behavioral health illness and the public.

In 2007 and 2008, the City eliminated a ¼ cent tax for basic services and in 2010 the City of Albuquerque cut social services programs by 5%. Soon after, we experienced the greatest economic downfall since the Great Depression. Spending on behavioral health in New Mexico has been drastically reduced while the need for these and other critical services has increased substantially. Inadequate funding for behavioral health and substance abuse services over many years has limited access to treatment for many city residents.

With access to treatment services so limited, a high number of individuals arrested, jailed or hospitalized are people with untreated mental health and substance abuse issues. We can no longer use the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) to house our residents with severe mental health and substance abuse issues. We must invest in prevention/intervention programs as well as accessible inpatient and outpatient mental health services.  Without addressing these needs and the lack of other services relating to homelessness and the developmentally disabled, the problems in our community will persist.

The intent of the “Essential Services” tax is to fund new or expand programs to implement a full continuum of treatment, housing and case management services that promote recovery for persons with a disabling illness related to behavioral health and chemical dependency, on the prevention and unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice of these individuals and a focus to reduce chronic homelessness.

It is my intent to promote adequate, stable public funding for community mental health services in the City of Albuquerque; ensure timely, affordable culturally appropriate access to mental health services that focus on recovery and resilience; improve community-based treatment programs and thereby reduce costly incarceration and police intervention.