Bill To Help Mentally Ill Goes To Governor

Mar 16, 2013

SANTA FE, NM – Legislation that offers a new approach to assisting individuals with mental health issues is on its way to the Governor.  House Bill 588 “Community Engagement Teams” (CET), sponsored by House Majority Leader, Rick Miera (D-Bernalillo-11), and Senate President Pro Tem, Mary Kay Papen (D-Doña Ana-38) passed the Senate with a vote of 36-1. 

The CETs established in HB 588 would assist clients who are unlikely to live safely in their community and who are deemed incapable of making treatment decisions.  They often cycle in and out of jail or hospitals or end up homeless.  CETs (comprised of medical specialists) would be coordinated through the Behavioral Health Services Division (BHSD) of the NM Human Services Department. 

“This is the result of an extensive public discourse with the inclusion of many stakeholders,” says Rep. Miera.  “It provides the foundation and the framework to develop a dignified manner in how we respond to help families and their loved ones who struggle with mental illness.  The outreach by qualified professionals will provide links to access the help they need.  Families and their loved ones deserve to be treated with dignity and this is a major step toward closing the gap that has existed for too long.  I thank all those who assisted with what was called a brilliant concept during the hearing process.  I am very happy, especially for those who will benefit from our collective efforts.”

Sen. Papen says, “This will help us move forward in helping the mentally ill and their families.  There have been far too many tragic stories about the mentally ill who end up in jails, hospitals, or on the streets.  This type of voluntary intervention will help them get the proper care they need and give comfort to their families who struggle to cope.”

The concept of CETs came from a task force that was launched in 2011 to address several bills regarding changes to the Mental Health and Disabilities Code (MHDC).  This concept of outreach does not formally exist anywhere in the country.  HB 588 will provide for a five-year pilot project. 

House Bill 588 is awaiting the signature of the Governor.