- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Officials began Tuesday to expand training in New Mexico’s most populous county for caseworkers, foster parents and others in an attempt to address mental illness and substance abuse in the state.

Bernalillo County Commission Chair Maggie Hart Stebbins and County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said the program is crucial to helping round out the county’s behavioral health services under a voter-approved tax increase to better fund programs.

The gross receipts tax increase came after a spate of deadly shootings by Albuquerque police in 2014, including the shooting death of James Boyd, a homeless man who had suffered from mental illness. That same year, a University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center review found Bernalillo County residents with chronic mental illness and substance abuse issues lacked ongoing-care options.

Officials have since established 19 programs, including one that created a downtown re-entry center for inmates just released from Metropolitan Detention Center, said Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, the director of the county’s Department of Behavioral Health Services.

Staff at the re-entry center is expected to set up former inmates with a plan for transitioning back into society, and pair those in need with mental health or treatment services.



In the past, inmates just released from the county jail were transported downtown and dropped off on a sidewalk outside the police station, sometimes in the middle of the night.

The behavioral health training program announced by county officials Tuesday is meant to help coaches, foster care parents and others better communicate with people who may be in need of mental health or treatment services.

The county is allowing for appropriations of a maximum of $1 million per year over the next three years on the program for education and training sessions.

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