COMMENTARY: In 2003, New Mexico embarked on a transformational program of providing mental health services throughout the state. It was a major restructuring of behavioral health and substance abuse provider services.
In 2010, the first phase of a substance abuse campus was completed in Los Lunas. The facility was called the Center for Recovery and Wellness. It included a 31,000 square-foot, $4.5 million facility, which was to provide outpatient counseling services offered by licensed professionals and nonprofit health care providers. A future phase 2 was to include residential facilities.
When Governor Martinez came into office in January 2011, New Mexico’s substance abuse rate was on the rise, yet her administration drastically reduced the budget of the substance abuse program. For the past 6.5 years, New Mexico’s opioid and heroin addictions and overdose rates have skyrocketed.
In 2014, we had the 2nd-highest rate in the United States. In 2015, we were the 8th-worst for overdose rates.
Unfortunately, we only improved on the list because some states got worse.
When the Center for Recovery and Wellness opened, it housed the nonprofit Partners in Wellness, which provided mental health and substance abuse counseling to over 600 Valencia County residents. Partners in Wellness occupied less than half the building.
In 2013, after the Martinez administration froze Partner’s Medicaid funding, they were forced out of business. Agave Health Inc. from Arizona took over some of the services. After Agave left the state in early 2016, the building was left almost vacant.
Throughout the past 6.5 years, our tax dollars have maintained, heated and cooled a facility that was never fully occupied and has sat nearly empty for more than a year. Meanwhile, Partners in Wellness and the other 14 nonprofit medical providers who were forced out of business when the Martinez administration abruptly cut off their Medicaid funding have all been cleared of any wrongdoing by the New Mexico attorney general.
In June 2017, after a $412,000 remodel (by this writers architectural firm), the now-called Henry Perea Building will house offices for the Children Youth and Families Department and the Aging and Long Term Services Department, providing little or no mental health or substance abuse counseling services. In the meantime, CYFD has been renting space for over six years in another nearby Los Lunas building.
Under the Martinez administration we missed the opportunity to provide consistent treatment for our Valencia County citizens who suffer with mental health and substance abuse diseases — while paying to maintain an underutilized building and paying rent to house state employees in another building nearby. This is another example of the Martinez administration’s ineptitude and malfeasance in running our state’s government. We need change!
Lee Gamelsky is principal/owner of Lee Gamelsky Architects P.C. The Albuquerque firm was started in 1987 and has designed several prominent award winning projects. Lee resides in the Los Duranes neighborhood, tending bees and a small orchard.