When Bernalillo County instituted a special behavioral health tax seven years ago, one of the key expectations was that the county would use the money to create a treatment option for people suffering from a health crisis. mental illness or substance abuse who might otherwise end up in the emergency room or even in jail.
The county partially achieved that goal by opening a Crisis Stabilization Unit inside its CARE campus in southeast Albuquerque in late 2019, though County Executive Julie Morgas Baca said it it was more of a “social” model with peer support systems.
The county is still working on the comprehensive, purpose-built facility on the University of New Mexico campus to support the most acute clients. It has earmarked $30 million for the project, including $20 million for construction and $10 million for operation.
Officials expect to dedicate the ground later this month and open it in early 2024.
“I recognize that this is long overdue,” said Morgas Baca.
She said there were reasons why it took years to get to this point. The county had to identify a medical partner — ultimately reaching an agreement with UNM Hospital — find a specific location and go through the university’s project approval process. The parties settled on a site with a pair of university buildings south of Marble and west of Vassar. They were busy and the university had to find other premises for these employees and services. The buildings then had to be demolished.
The facility will eventually have 16 patient rooms where people can stay for up to 14 days, as well as a “peer lounge” for potential peer support or advice, the city said last month. UNMH CEO Kate Becker at the Bernalillo County Commission.
It will also include 10 exam rooms for psychiatric emergency services and a shell space “likely for more ambulatory access to behavioral health,” Becker said.
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