LAS CRUCES — The cost of a feasibility study for a public hospital to treat mentally ill patients in Doña Ana County should be shared.
Members of the Las Cruces City Council and Doña Ana County Commission came to that consensus during a biannual joint work session Tuesday at Las Cruces City Hall. They also agreed the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute, the state psychiatric hospital, in Las Vegas, cannot adequately serve the influx of patients being involuntarily sent there by state district court judges.
“We cannot wait on the state to take action on this,” said Doña Ana County Commissioner Wayne Hancock. “We cannot wait on the federal government to come rescue us.”
Hancock, who strongly supports establishing a mental health hospital in southern New Mexico, said New Heights Group, an independent healthcare consultant in Santa Fe, has tentatively agreed to initiate the study.
“I think the city should support this feasibility study in whatever way need be,” City Councilor Gil Sorg said. “This is pretty important we get this done. It’s high time we get ‘er done.”
Hancock, citing numbers to emphasize the need for a public mental health hospital in southern New Mexico, said 1,076 people have been involuntarily committed to the state psychiatric hospital so far this year by state district court judges in Las Cruces. Last year, 1,211 people from Doña Ana County were involuntarily committed.
The New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute only has beds for 75 patients — and take patients from throughout the state.
“It just goes to show the need,” County Commissioner Leticia Benavidez said. “We desperately need a hospital for mentally disabled people.”
Billy Garrett, commission chair, said cooperation between the two elected bodies could be the spur to get a public mental hospital built.
“My hope is a feasibility study breaks this open,” Garrett said. “…This is something that should have been done yesterday.”
No cost for the study was mentioned during the work session. But Mayor Ken Miyagishima estimated it could roughly cost $125,000.
And Hancock estimated a 150-bed mental hospital, three to four floors tall, could cost about $125 million to build. He added the possibility exists the proposed hospital could be paid for through state capital outlay funds.
“If we can get a feasibility study done, it could be approved and funded through DFA,” said Hancock, referring to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.
Hancock also said the need for another state mental hospital is so great it is possible other counties and municipalities in southern New Mexico might be willing to pay a portion of operational and maintenance costs for the hospital.
A proposed mental hospital could also be linked with a Crisis Triage Center county officials are still trying to outfit and get up and running.
“We do have enough land to build a three to four story hospital. It is feasible,” Hancock said.
©2015 Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)
Visit the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) at www.lcsun-news.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.