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Bernalillo County to spend $4M to help addicts, mentally ill

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Bernalillo County is close to launching $4 million a year in new services aimed at helping people who struggle with mental illness or addiction.

The ideas range from teams of professionals who would visit people in their homes to a place for homeless teenagers to live.

It would be the first package of new programs funded through a 2015 tax increase that raises about $17 million a year.

County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said the proposals also include measures aimed at ensuring the money is well spent. The county, for example, will require data on outcomes and evaluate the effectiveness of the new programs.

“This is an exciting step,” Hart Stebbins said. “We have always recognized that $17 million won’t address every behavioral health need in the community, but we are focusing on some of the highest priorities with this funding.”

The tax – which amounts to one-eighth of 1 percent on gross receipts – went into effect in July 2015, but the county has been slow to deliver the new services promised with the money. Instead, the commission established a series of subcommittees and a joint city-county panel to help evaluate how to use the money and coordinate with other agencies.

The county is still evaluating how to spend the rest of the money. Besides the $4 million up for consideration today, the county has already tapped into the tax to pay for a housing program that helps inmates coming out of jail, though that program was in place before the tax.

Bernalillo County commissioners today are to consider moving forward with:

• $1 million a year for “community engagement teams” that would respond to people struggling with mental illness or addiction but who want help. The teams would include a psychiatrist or psychologist and other professionals.

The county administration is seeking approval to issue a request for proposals from companies interested in providing community engagement teams.

The goal would be to get people help before they end up in a crisis that requires attention from police and other emergency personnel.

• $2 million a year for a group that would identify children at risk of abuse, neglect and poor behavioral health outcomes and connect them with community resources. The county would issue an RFP.

One goal would be to help children who have a parent in jail or struggling with mental illness or drugs.

• $650,000 a year for programs that provide a temporary place to live for homeless teens and young adults. There would be two separate populations served – teens 14 to 18 and adults 18 to 24 – but the goal is to serve people with an addiction. The county would issue an RFP.

• $140,000 a year for behavioral health adviser who would help oversee the delivery of services and evaluate their effectiveness. The county would issue an RFP.

• A $247,000 annual contract with the Institute for Social Research at the University of New Mexico, which would help evaluate and measure the services provided through the behavioral health tax.

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