Talon News - Good Local News

County to Study Mental Health Funding



The May 1, 2018 San Juan County Commission Meeting began with introduction of Paige Connelly, Disaster Programs Manager for local American Red Cross Chapter by Mike Mestas, San Juan County Emergency Manager. His department was honored by Connelly with the 'Good Neighbor Award' from the New Mexico State American Red Cross Chapter. Referencing the Aztec High School shooting, she spoke highly of the "quick response" of local emergency response teams. Of Connelly, Mestas said, "She comes highly-qualified and we're very lucky to have her in our area".

Lisa Gomez presented the list of Indigent Hospital Claims, totaling $118,283.51, to the Commission. Commissioner Fortner asked about the breakdown of funding for Presbyterian Medical Services (PMS), Four Winds Treatment Center and raised questions of funding for mental health providers. Gomez said, "PMS is funded mainly for doctor visits, prescriptions and dental---and very little for mental health". Only "substance abuse issues" are covered and "Desert View Counseling operates under a fifty-nine thousand dollar" annual contract with the County.

Commissioner Crowley expressed his concerns about "gaps in our service" for certain segments of the population. The taxes covering this area of funding equals about 2.1 million or the equivalent of 1/16%. County CEO Kim Carpenter commented "We know that mental health is big problem nationwide and a big problem in our jails---very costly." Indigent funding was roundly approved and Regular Meeting business was underway with the Consent Agenda.

Items included: 'FY18 Budget Adjustments #7'; 'Employee Assistance Program Services to Choices Behavioral Health Services, Inc. of Farmington'; 'Medical Direction for Fire & Rescue Services to Emergency Medicine Associates of San Juan County'; 'Conveying Talley Park to the Upper La Plata Domestic Water Consumers and Mutual Sewage Works Cooperative'; and 'Approval of April 17, 2018 Regular Meeting Minutes'. All approved.

The first order of 'New Business' was 'City of Farmington Proposed Annexation Plan of 14.8 Acres West of Farmington City Limits-Mary Holton, Community Development Director, City of Farmington. Holton said "if advised to go forward" the timeline for annexation would be around mid-June. The area is the intersection of Glade Road and west 30th Street, where land---owned by the Pruitt family---is located and is designated for subdivision. The platt showed some of the land owned by the County and some by Farmington was affected by this proposed subdivision---and the annexation would be just under fifteen acres. This land, now County owned, would go to the City of Farmington. Mr. Echols advised the Commissioners that if they had any comments they should submit them to Mary Holton, who would convey them to the Farmington City Council.

Item #2, 'Update on the Aztec Boys and Girls Club CEO-Mike Patch', was a powerpoint presentation of photos and statistics. The mission at the Boys and Girls Club "is to inspire participants, especially those who need it the most---to realize their full potential". They have 421 members, served 981 through sports leagues and other activities and supported 1400 children last year, with a daily average of 109. Regarding the need in this community, Patch said, "Anna E. Kasey ranked New Mexico 49th in overall child well-being and 50th in education; 33% of our youth will not graduate high school". He said, "That a 2016 Community Needs Assessment Study reported that our area displayed some of the poorest health conditions for youth in the United States...and the organization Wall Street 24-7 has---for the last two years---named the County as the fastest shrinking economy and the second worst place to raise kids".

"So how do we counter that---we have things like 'Smart Moves' and 'Power Hour' and summer programs that offer STEM and STEEM", "Patch said. He explained that 'Power Hour' is that initial hour after school when the kids can get help with their homework, and that it's incentivised---"they earn points and can buy things---just by doing their homework". He said they play games that teach math, geography and history. They're taught 'civic engagement' by going to the park and creating 'trash monsters'. He said the long-term impact is hard to assess, but he stated that statistically-nationally, by watching trends---that "91% of those that go to the Boys and Girls Club---graduate high school". One statistic he did want to "brag about---is that studies have shown that for every dollar spent on a Boys and Girls Club---it returns to its community---$9.60 of value...so here in little Aztec, our Club returns three million dollars worth of value". He said County funding, unlike grant-funding---allows flexibility in how those funds are used.

'Consideration of Fireworks Proclamation', presented by Craig Daugherty, Joe Sawyer and David Yows, was approved after a few minutes of discussion. The fire hazard is "exceptional for our area"---very similar to 2002 when the last Restriction Proclamation was put in effect. Joe Sawyer, County Deputy Attorney reviewed the statutes which cover fireworks restrictions, which will last 30 days, beginning June 8 to cover the July 4th holiday. Chief Daugherty confirmed that fire restrictions are already in place in the surrounding National Forests, including Carson, San Juan and Santa Fe, along with many counties around the state. The economic impact of no fireworks selling was brought up by Commissioner Fortner, but Daugherty emphasized the extreme cost of fighting fires and loss of property...and that the Proclamation will establish exactly which and where fireworks will be allowed. Approval was unanimous.

The final agenda item dealt with the 'hot topic' of 'Special Legal Counsel Services for Opioid Investigation/Litigation'. Larry Hathaway asked the Commission to award a one year contract to a consortium of attorneys, referred to by Hathaway as 'Simons and Group'. County Attorney Echols said that group was representing about 300 others in a 'multi-district litigation'. The lawsuit, Echols clarfied, was for the "misrepresentation by the doctors and others, as to their (prescribed drugs) addictive qualities". When asked his opinion about the litigation, Echols said, "I think there's validity to it"---one case he looked at was settled for 6.5 billion dollars. He suggested that if the County is going to participate they should do it sooner than later. Regarding how awarded money would have to be earmarked, Echols said it would be up to the County, unless designated as part of the settlement. He said one thing that other counties are planning is a reimbursement for jail costs for people with an opioid addiction. Echols informed that the lawsuit is for the injury sustained by governmental entities due to the high costs of care and handling of the 'addicted' population. The Commission voted in favor of the proposal.

The meeting adjourned after no reports from CEO Carpenter or County department heads---and no comments/input from the general public.


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