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Bernalillo County employees express concern over proposed behavioral healthcare ordinance

Bernalillo County headquarters at Alvarado Square in Downtown Albuquerque, NM.
Nash Jones
Bernalillo County headquarters at Alvarado Square in Downtown Albuquerque, NM. At a community meeting hosted by Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, county employees said they think a proposed ordinance needs work before the commission votes on it.

At a special community meeting Monday night hosted by Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, county employees voiced concern about a proposed behavioral health ordinance the commission is set to vote on next week.

Employees pointed out what they said are potential pitfalls in the ordinance – everything from adding more services to departments that are already stretched thin, hiring new managers that may come from out of state, changes to where and how funding could come in, and more.

But the most common concern is that the changes would come in the form of an ordinance, rather than a resolution which Commissioner Quezada said makes it harder to make improvements.

“An ordinance is law. Usually, we do everything with resolutions which means it’s not law, and if things aren’t working, they can adjust, and I think it should be fluid,” he said.

Jessica Jaramillo-Salazar, the interim director for Behavioral Health Services, said the new draft of the ordinance was written without any input from the employees who do the work every day.

“Then all of the sudden we get hands on the new ordinance that was deferred and it’s completely re-written,” she said

Quezada said he likes the idea of trying to improve behavioral health services, but that it should be done with direct input from the staff, “and they’re really not on board at all,” he said. “And some private providers also came in, and they have a lot of concerns”

The ordinance will be in front of the commission for vote on June 25. Quezada says he hopes the other commissioners recognize that change is needed, and that action on the ordinance is deferred until there is more input. If not, he says he’ll be prepared with amendments.

Support for this coverage comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Daniel Montaño is a reporter with KUNM's Public Health, Poverty and Equity project. He is also an occasional host of Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Let's Talk New Mexico since 2021, is a born and bred Burqueño who first started with KUNM about two decades ago, as a production assistant while he was in high school. During the intervening years, he studied journalism at UNM, lived abroad, fell in and out of love, conquered here and there, failed here and there, and developed a taste for advocating for human rights.
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