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Behavioral health summit held at ENMU-R

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Natalie Skogerboe, of Aspen Solutions speaks before a crowd of mental health professionals Friday during the 2018 Chaves County Behavioral Health Summit. Skogerboe was the facilitator at the summit at Eastern New Mexico State University-Roswell meant to identify needs and shortcomings in mental health and behavioral health services in Chaves County. (Alex Ross Photo )

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Representatives from law enforcement and government as well as private and nonprofit organizations gathered Friday to discuss how to better serve individuals in Chaves County who are in need of behavioral and mental health services.

The 2018 Chaves County Behavioral Health Summit took place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Lawrence C. Harris Occupational Health Center at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. The summit was hosted by the Chaves County Behavioral Health Leadership Council.

Valarie Lopez, of the New Mexico Department of Health and a member of the council, said between presentations that 86 people were in attendance to discuss what behavioral health services are available in Chaves County, identify gaps in care and talk about what can be done to enhance care for individuals.

Bob Philips, director of the program of human services and addiction studies at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and a member of the council, said behavioral health is a major issue in New Mexico, a state with high rates of suicide and underage drinking.

“We have a lot of major gaps in our services and we are trying to bring people together to think about how we might improve that situation,” Philips said.

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He added New Mexico also has less capacity than some other states when it comes to providing behavioral health services.

Years ago, the state of New Mexico made significant cuts to programs and mental health agencies were shuttered, and since then in Chaves County, mental health professionals have been working to rebuild the infrastructure needed to provide behavioral services.

Through group discussions and activities, professionals at the summit identified mental health needs and resources, as well as what a better-coordinated system of care would look like.

Lopez said that the problem is not only lack of resources but the lack of communication between agencies who could work together to provide individuals with better care.

Mental health professionals need to work together, and not in silos cut off from one another, she said.

Natalie Skogerboe, the facilitator leading the discussion at the summit, said that some of the possible solutions mentioned at the summit include developing a shared guide to inform professionals about the resources available locally, the need to balance sharing information across agencies about clients without violating patient privacy and the need for long-term residential care for people with severe mental health issues.

Rural areas also have issues that some larger more populated areas such as Albuquerque do not, Nathan Padilia, of La Familia Mental Health, a local mental health provider said. Challenges include the lack of local and state funding as well as available transportation services and fewer specialists.

Philips said he thinks there needs to be some help from local taxpayers to help improve mental and behavioral health.

He said that recently Albuquerque voters passed a mill levy increase that would provide additional funding for mental health services. The measure passed overwhelmingly and similar measures have passed in other cities. He said Roswell needs to think about doing something similar.

“We have so many services that need that support and funding from the city and a mill levy really is a way to do that,” Philips said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.