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Advocates To Lawmakers: State Is In Behavioral Health Crisis

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
Comments from people affected by a shortage of behavioral health services

More than 20 organizations joined together Tuesday to call on lawmakers not to cut funding for behavioral health services. 

Roberta Rael, founder and director of youth media organization Generation Justice, told the crowd, "People are afraid to use the word crisis, but we are in crisis, and we can’t fix it until we call it what it is."

Generation Justice organized the event and draped long scrolls from the balconies of the Roundhouse rotunda. The scrolls, featuring quotes from people affected by a shortage of services, nearly touched the ground.

Longtime behavioral health advocate Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino said the state is spending more on this issue than ever before but getting less for it.

“What we really need to do,” he said, “is re-establish local agencies staffed with local people who are sensitive to local need.”

The years since the system was disrupted by accusations of Medicaid fraud, Ortiz y Pino said, have been painful. He estimates it will take many more years to make the system as effective as it once was.

Generation Justice also presented legislators with petitions signed by 2,300 people demanding solutions.

It’s a budget session this year, and a drop in oil and gas prices has created a shortfall.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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