Omar Vega, a longtime Santa Fe resident and licensed therapist, has been selected as the director of the new Santa Fe County Behavioral Health Crisis Center, set to open in mid-September.
County officials and David Ley, executive director of New Mexico Solutions, an Albuquerque nonprofit contracted to operate the crisis center, announced the decision to the Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday during an update on the project, which aims to fill a gap in mental health and substance abuse treatment services in the community.
Ley said he and Vega have worked together on previous projects.
“He’s very connected to the community and knows behavioral health services very well,” Ley said. “Like me, he is very excited about this project.”
Ley also introduced Bryan Stuppy, a licensed therapist and alcohol and drug counselor who will be the lead therapist at the center.
Vega and Stuppy will start April 1, when New Mexico Solutions is set to take over mobile crisis services for the county from Presbyterian Medical Services, offering 24-hour aid to people 14 or older who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Stuppy and Vega could not be reached for comment.
County Community Services Director Rachel O’Connor said the crisis center, housed in a county-owned facility on Galisteo Street, will be ready to open Sept. 15.
The center will serve patients 18 or older, as well as their families, according to the operations contract. Staff at the triage center will screen patients in crisis and offer short-term respite, information and immediate services as well as follow-up care. It also will have an on-site pharmacy.
The space will be a home-like setting, “designed to reduce anxiety,” the contract says, adding the center will operate from 10 a.m. to midnight.
The crisis center has been years in the making.
In November 2016, county voters approved a $2 million bond to raise revenues for public health and safety services, including the center, and in June 2017, the County Commission approved a one-eighth percent increase in the gross receipts tax rate to support the facility’s operations.
The county projected revenues of about $1.5 million annually to fund the center. It hired New Mexico Solutions in March 2018.
Ley said New Mexico Solutions, which offers a range of behavioral health and psychiatric services for children and families in Albuquerque, wants to eventually expand services for young people in Santa Fe County.
In a similar venture, Santa Fe County plans to partner with Bernalillo County and the nonprofit First Choice Community Healthcare to provide behavioral health services at a facility the clinic owns in Edgewood.
The property is surrounded by state trust land, so the project requires a lease with the State Land Office. O’Connor said the county is still waiting for state approval on the deal.
The Edgewood facility would be smaller than the Santa Fe crisis center, she said, but also would use the “living-room model.”
The planning and design portion of the Edgewood center is anticipated to run from April through June, and renovation of the old First Choice clinic would start in the fall, O’Connor said.