Leaders, advocates travel to Miami for tour of recovery center

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The Sunshine State is delivering mental health treatment and recovery services, and New Mexico leaders want to do the same.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The Sunshine State is delivering mental health treatment and recovery services, and New Mexico leaders want to do the same.

Miami Dade County is opening a new facility to provide “a comprehensive system of care for individuals with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders who frequently cycle through the criminal justice and other acute care treatment systems.”

“It’s going to be a very, very big statewide effort. But I think we’re all ready,” said Connie Vigil, president of the Greater Albuquerque business alliance. She helped organize a trip to Miami last week for several local and state leaders, other advocates, and a UNM professor.

They took a tour of what they’re calling a “groundbreaking solution.”

“Their jail was completely full. And they started the program due to a federal lawsuit not unlike what we had in Bernalillo County,” said Vigil. “There’s no reason whatsoever that we can’t not only duplicate it, and maybe even improve it to fit New Mexico,” said Vigil. “It won’t be one size fits all. We’re not Miami, but I’m very, very hopeful.”

Miami’s Center for Mental Health and Recovery is based on a diversion and treatment idea, helping to divert people away from the criminal justice system into more appropriate care.  

“It’s amazing when you do put the effort in rather than thinking that someone can recover in a jail cell. And it’s really breaking ground on a whole new concept,” Vigil explained.

She says our state is already on a great path because we have facilities like the Gateway Center, the West Side shelter, and a new triage center at UNM under construction. And other statewide facilities like the old behavioral health institute in Las Vegas could help build a successful statewide network.

“We have to combine efforts. It can’t just be a city problem or a county problem. It has to be a state-driven problem with national and federal help,” said Vigil.

She says the next step is to host a summit for all of the elected and non-elected leaders who could not make the tour, and then come to the legislature with funding requests for multiple new facilities in regions across the state.  

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