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IN FOCUS: Journalism Grant Funds Investigation Into Behavioral Health In New Mexico

May 19, 2017

Earlier this year, NMPolitics.net was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to explore issues within New Mexico’s behavioral health system. http://http://nmpolitics.net/index/2017/01/grant-will-help-nmpolitics-net-investigate-behavioral-health-system

The grant not only provides an opportunity to shine light on issues facing New Mexico’s behavioral health system, but the project has brought together NMPolitics.net, The Las Cruces Sun-News, and KRWG News in a collaboration to examine the issues facing the behavioral health system, along with looking for possible solutions to these issues.

On a recent episode of KRWG-TV’s “In Focus” Heath Haussaman, editor and publisher of NMPolitics.net says that there are clear signs that the community has a problem with behavioral health, and the way it is addressed.

“I think local policymakers have a bunch of ideas on what we need to do, but there hasn’t been the political will or collaboration to make it happen,” says Haussamen.

Haussamen says that he hopes that the collaboration between the news outlets working on this investigation can yield solutions to problems facing the system here in New Mexico. It’s a system that he says was essentially “wiped out” when Governor Susana Martinez froze Medicaid funding in 2013 to behavioral health providers.

Since then, Haussamen says he has been looking for a narrative on the issues facing the system and he says he found it in the case of an Juan Gabriel Torres, who was fatally shot by Las Cruces Police last year. http://krwg.org/post/update-suspect-killed-las-cruces-police-was-armed-large-knife The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that Torres was released from jail before his death by mistake.  http://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/crime/2016/08/23/man-shot-lcpd-mistakenly-released-jail/89232852/

Through records requests Haussamen obtained police reports on Torres that tell a story of what he says is the “worst-case scenario” of what can happen when things go wrong within the system.

“There are so many police reports going back maybe 15-20 years about substance abuse and alcohol,” says Haussamen.

Since, the Medicaid freeze, Haussamen says there have been changes with providers in the state. Also, he says there have been reports of the lack of quality of care within the behavioral health system.

“I keep hearing that it’s not anywhere close to where it needs to be,” says Haussamen.

The grant-funded collaboration between NMPolitics.net, The Las Cruces Sun-News and KRWG News has brought together journalists from print, radio, television, and web in what Haussamen says he hopes will go beyond covering just the day-to-day stories and ask the deeper questions that he says he hopes can push the conversation of behavioral health further than it’s ever gone in Southern New Mexico, and shine light on possible solutions to issues facing the system in the state.

If you have a story to share about your experiences facing issues within the behavioral health system in New Mexico or would like to share what you have seen are possible solutions to these issues that may be working here or elsewhere, you can contact KRWG News via email at feedback@nmsu.edu or contact NMPolitics.net at http://nmpolitics.net/index/contact-nmpolitics-net/