A Denver-based company is working with four counties and two municipalities in the area to develop a $44.5 million regional mental and behavioral health treatment center in Clovis, a facility that government leaders think could serve a key role in reducing prison populations in the area.
The presentation by Initium Health to Chaves County commissioners Thursday was a corollary to a discussion during the same meeting about challenges facing county detention centers in New Mexico.
“Unfortunately, as you know, New Mexico doesn't have enough in-patient beds,” said Initium Health Principal James Corbett. “Those folks unfortunately end up in detention centers across the state.” He said the company operates in several states and specializes in working with rural communities.
Robin Martinez, the multi-line claims manager for New Mexico counties, said that legal claims and costs related to charges of inadequate mental health treatment at county prisons represents an outsized amount of all legal claims paid out during a 10-year period from Jan. 1, 2011, to Oct. 31, 2022.
Of the $85 million in legal claims and costs paid during that time, $20.43 million was related to cases of inadequate mental health care. That was 24% of the total legal claims paid, but the number of claims at 51 was only 2.5% of the total 2,012 claims made. “When you do the math, that's about $400,000 average cost per claim for a mental health claim,” Martinez said.
Kate Bailey of Initium Health explained that people in need of substance abuse treatment or mental health care in this area of the state have few in-patient options. They often end up in medical hospitals in larger cities or out of state to be quickly released without receiving appropriate treatment. That is why they often are arrested and incarcerated.
Four counties, DeBaca, Roosevelt, Curry and Quay, along with the cities of Portales and Clovis are working to plan for and fund the regional in-patient center in Clovis. Some of the funding will come from the national opioid settlement dollars that states, counties and cities are receiving. A $2 million grant also has been received by the Eastern Plains Council of Governments to develop the future workforce for the facility and to introduce mental health programs in area schools. Other funding is expected to come from federal and state grants and appropriations, private funds and donations.
Bailey said that mental health, overdose and suicide attempts result in about 588 emergency calls in the four counties and two cities each year. Mental health cases also represent a lot of ambulance and paramedic calls, sometimes tying up staff and equipment for long drives to larger cities, only to have people turned away from treatment. Bailey added that Curry County reported that 65% of its inmate population has mental health conditions and 45% are on psychotropic medications. Recidivism for inmates with mental health issues was estimated at 70% within 90 days. The planned facility would have 72 in-patient beds for psychiatric disorders and 24 beds for substance abuse treatment. It would cost about $20 million in year one to operate but would be expected to be profitable by year three and to have paid back its initial operating investment by year five.
Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext 351, or at email@example.com.