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Many contributed to help homeless

I was delighted to read in the Journal the announcement of the successful responders to an RFP (request for proposal) for case management for homeless support. That city RFP and proposed contract awards are part of months of work and coordination between the City Council, Bernalillo County, state legislators and other members of a Behavioral Health Task Force along with Mayor Richard Berry’s administration.

While the mayor didn’t acknowledge the work that culminated in his press conference on Monday, I think it’s only fair to recognize all the people that make these services possible and give credit where credit is due.

A Behavioral Health Task Force, initiated by the City Council, had 39 members including housing providers, behavioral care providers, consumers, hospitals, insurers, other subject matter experts, public safety, the courts and regional elected officials. They labored for months at the end of 2014 to provide a current assessment of gaps in the homeless and behavioral health service network and made specific recommendations and budget estimates to fill those gaps.

The group of elected officials who were active members of the Mental Health Task Force included Bernalillo County Commissioners Maggie Hart-Stebbins and Wayne Johnson, state Sens. Sander Rue and Bill O’Neill, state Rep. Rick Miera, City Councilor Brad Winter and myself.

The council has led the effort by insisting that the city increase such resources according to the task force recommendations. Last fall and early this year the council added $1.2 million to the mayor’s budget. We saw to it that the funds for crisis stabilization and supportive housing with intensive case management be allocated through an RFP process.

In addition to the programs announced by the mayor, we helped the county provide housing and case management for addicts and mental health cases being released from jail and added funding for the existing Albuquerque Heading Home program to increase its capacity.

The County Commission recently enacted a 1/8 percent gross receipts tax dedicated to such services and programs. Combined with existing city and federal funding, our metro area will have approximately $36 million per year available for the work.

This is a big opportunity for our metro area to be a leader in the field, so we must strengthen collaboration between city administration, council and the county to ensure that funding is carefully allocated to the right programs.

I look forward to discussing the proposed contracts with the City Council, and continuing to work with all stakeholders to address behavioral health and related homelessness.

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