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NM lacking in mental health services

Samaritan CounselingMental health disorders cross political stripes and beliefs of all kind. According to the 2017 State of Mental Health in America, 40 million Americans will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

Of that population, 1.2 million individuals living with mental illness sit in jails and prisons each year. Mental health conditions affect all of us, our friends, family members and our communities.

When we don’t support people with behavioral/mental health issues, we pay heavily, whether in health care, workforce, quality of life or actual lives lost. Untreated mental illnesses in the U.S. cost more than $100 billion a year in lost productivity, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Untreated mental illness impacts our hospitals and clinics, our schools, our courts and jails. It is also well known that untreated mental illness along with alcohol and drug addiction are major contributors to homelessness.

More Americans now have access to mental health services as a result of the Affordable Care Act. However, 19 percent remain uninsured in states that did not expand Medicaid and 13 percent remain uninsured in states that did expand Medicaid. In other words, access to mental health services remains an issue in many states, and New Mexico is no exception.

New Mexico continues to lead the nation in damaging substance behavioral/mental health outcomes. It has ranked among the worst in the nation for drug overdose death rates, suicide rates and mental health illnesses.

According to a September 2014 New Mexico Legislative Finance Report, one in ten New Mexico adults have a substance dependence or abuse issue, and two in ten suffer mental illness. Perhaps even more alarming is how these adult behavioral health issues affect our children: 63 percent of victims of child abuse in New Mexico have a parent or caregiver who abuses drugs compared to 20 percent for the rest of nation. You don’t have to look very far – just think about the unthinkable events surrounding the Victoria Martens case last August.

To further exacerbate the crisis in New Mexico, a June 2013 state audit alleged that 15 of the state’s largest mental health agencies committed Medicaid fraud over three years. Thirteen of the 15 agencies originally charged with wrongdoing have since been cleared by the attorney general. Nearly all of those agencies have since been forced out of business, bringing to bear more strain on a behavioral/mental health system that is already fragile, and some would argue broken.

Mental health has always been on the fringe in New Mexico and that was true in 1987 when Samaritan Counseling Center was created under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Adams Lovekin. This year marks the Samaritan Counseling Center’s 30th anniversary of providing wholeness and healing through professional counseling services and programs. Counseling has always been at the core of its mission, but the center has branched out to provide cooperative parenting classes, financial literacy, WiseParent counseling, Workplace Services and much more. Samaritan Counseling Center has perhaps the largest concentration of bilingual/bicultural trained clinicians in Central New Mexico.

In 2016, Samaritan Counseling Center provided 19,000 hours of counseling; served 2,800 people (children, teens, individuals and families); organized 150 cooperative parenting classes; served 250 couples in its financial literacy program; and has provided more than $8.5 million in charitable services since its inception. From its humble beginnings in rented offices at Presbyterian Hospital on Central Avenue, Samaritan has remained committed to providing professional psychological counseling services and programs regardless of a person’s economic circumstance. We work every day to help those most in need because we know first hand the alternatives get played out in our communities in the least desirable ways.

NM Ethics in Business Awards

Dating back to 2000, Samaritan recognized the connection between ethical behavior to the physical, psychological and spiritual health of the community. That was the year the New Mexico Ethics in Business Awards were born.

Samaritan understands the influence that employment practices, business conduct and workplace conditions have on mental health. We’ve all been in workplace situations that take an emotional toll on us and our families. Promoting ethical practices in our community, and encouraging local businesses, individuals and social-profit organizations to aspire to the award builds awareness about the importance of ethics in our community.

Samaritan partners closely with UNM’s Anderson School of Management students, who research nominees as part of a semester-long ethics course. Groups of students produce lengthy reports that are then submitted to a selection committee as part of the deliberations. The selection committee makes the final choice.

Ten percent of the proceeds from the Ethics in Business Awards Dinner is donated to UNM Anderson School of Management in support of an Ethics Endowment.

Samaritan Counseling Center invites the entire community to advocate and support behavioral/mental health issues in our community. The consequences of unaddressed mental health needs are clear. Please visit our website at and support behavioral/mental health issues in our community.

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