- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Lost in the partisan bickering of the New Mexico Legislature’s final moments was a measure aimed at helping residents with severe mental illness who refuse needed treatment.

Because lawmakers failed to pass the bill, New Mexico remains one of only a handful of states without a “Kendra’s Law.” That law would have allowed judges in some counties to order patients to take medication and undergo treatment if they are deemed a danger to themselves and their community.

The proposal came after calls in Albuquerque following more than 40 police shootings since 2010. Officials say 75 percent of the suspects shot suffered from some sort of mental illness and likely did not receive the needed treatment.

Despite calls from mental health advocates and hours of testimony, time ran out before the Senate could vote on a revised version of the bill. The House passed the measure with minutes to go in the session, but there wasn’t enough time for the Senate to vote.

A partisan battle over public-works spending held up the bill and others, as lawmakers stalled proposals in protest over the capital-spending fight.

“The Senate held it up because of a filibuster,” said House Majority leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.

Jack LeVick, executive director of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, said he didn’t care whose fault it was for not passing the bill. The state suffered because lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement, LeVick said.

“It’s unfortunate because we need help,” he said. “It’s not a law enforcement problem. It’s everyone’s problem.”

“Kendra’s Law” is named after Kendra Webdale, a 32-year-old woman who was pushed in front of an oncoming New York subway train in 1999 by a man battling untreated schizophrenia.

Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, who sponsored the bill, said the state measure was tailored to the New Mexico. “It’s a good bill,” Papen said hours before the session ended. “It’s something that this state needs.”

It’s unclear if Papen will try to get the measure through a budget session next year.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter: https://twitter.com/russcontreras

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