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Dona Aña County officials respond to Crisis Triage Center closure

The Doña Ana County Crisis Triage Center.
Jonny Coker
The Doña Ana County Crisis Triage Center.

The Doña Ana County Triage Center in Las Cruces is now closed. The closure comes after a January 9 County Commissioners’ meeting where the board had a split vote and ultimately denied RI International a nearly $562,000 grant from New Mexico’s Behavioral Health Services Division.

Doña Ana County Commissioner Shannon Reynolds said he does not speak for the whole board, but by his own assessment, the triage center was too expensive to rationalize funding.

“As time went on and [RI international] asked for more money, I still asked for results to justify the additional monies, and I don’t think we ever received that. And that’s why we are where we are,” he said.

Commissioner Reynolds said he does support the idea of a crisis triage center, but only when it makes financial sense.

“I’d like to find someone locally who’s in the community so the money stays in the state and we support more jobs and more businesses here in New Mexico and in Doña Ana County [rather than] having an organization from outside the state, like they did from Arizona, actually come in and try to provide the service.”

When KRWG reached out to RI International, the company’s Deputy CEO Paul Galdys replied with a written statement:

“I have never seen County Commissioners reject funding from state leadership when it is designed to serve the local community without any expectation of financial contribution from the local community,” Galdys said. “The increased request for funding is because we continued to serve 1,000 [patients] each year, while we would need to serve approximately 2,500 individuals annually to break even at the current rate of reimbursement for our services.”

Director of Doña Ana County Health and Human Services Jamie Michael said her department is regrouping and looking at other organizations that may be able to operate the vacant facility.

“We do have some wonderful outpatient and inpatient providers and they’ve all stepped up and asked how they can support and help fill this gap, hoping that it’s just a temporary gap in services,” she said.

Michael said she’s grateful for the work that happened at the county’s triage center, and she hopes the next operator can learn from info gained from RI International.

“When the contract ended, the staff are now seeking employment in other places,” she said. “RI put together a great team. There’s some wonderful peer support workers and other folks that are doing this work all day long, and they've now been trained to do this type of crisis care. So we’re hoping that their skills and capacity can stay in our community.”

While some county officials say that the crisis triage center is indeed needed within the community, it’s unclear how soon it can become operational again.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.
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