The contractor providing a mobile mental health crisis response team in Santa Fe County said its services will be provided remotely and it will prioritize people with chronic mental illness amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview Friday, David Ley, director of New Mexico Solutions, said the local team will support first responders over the phone during a behavioral health crisis and will offer some phone-based outreach services. “It’s more consultation at this point,” Ley said. “The hope is when things start to change in the future, we can reevaluate our services.”
On Wednesday, the Albuquerque-based provider took over operations of the mobile crisis response team from Presbyterian Medical Services. While it initially agreed to offer 24-hour aid to people age 14 or older who are experiencing a mental health crisis, everything has been upended by the pandemic, Ley said. “We’ve had to limit hiring. We have a team of three, and it’s going to stay that way for a little while.”
The organization is limiting services to ensure it does not spread the team too thin, Ley said. New Mexico Solutions also has contracted with the county to operate a crisis center in a county-owned facility on Galisteo Street. The facility is expected to open Sept. 15.
The mobile team is offering remote counseling and other support to homeless people housed in motels or in the dorms of the city-owned midtown campus, Ley said. Caseworkers and therapists are trying to offer video sessions of activities such as art therapy and yoga. “Everyone is doing the best they can to stay connected,” Ley said. “It’s the isolation that’s getting to people.”
Santa Fe County Community Services Director Rachel O’Connor said there were no changes to the budget for New Mexico Solutions, but its mission had to be altered.
“Our first priority is to serve the homeless with chronic mental challenges,” O’Conner said. “We wanted to be able to support the city in their efforts at midtown campus.”
Families with members who suffer from chronic mental illness are the other priority, she added.
“If you are a person who experiences chronic mental distress, this time might be harder to go through,” O”Conner said. “I want the team to be available for them.”