Southern New Mexico’s director of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department in Dona Ana County, Jamie Michael, was selected as one of the people expected to make a significant impact on the community in 2017. She is referred to as one of the Movers and Shakers of 2017 by the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Michael has taken a leading role in the push for mental health care reform in the county. In New Mexico, where there are only 491 psychiatric beds are available to people with severe mental illness, it was estimated that about 35 percent of the jail population is currently receiving psychiatric treatment for a mental illness, according to Grace Philips, the Task Force Chair at the New Mexico Association of Counties General Counsel, in the December 2015 Senate Joint Memorial 4 Task Force Recommendations report.
As the head of the county’s health department, Michael will oversee a new $2.8 million federal grant that was awarded to Dona Ana County in November 2016 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The new federal grant aims will help support the implementation of a pilot program that aims to reform the mental health care system in Doña Ana County.
The four-year federal grant will be dispersed in amounts of $700,000 per year to the Dona Ana County government. The jail diversion pilot program will focus on providing treatment to individuals who have been involuntarily hospitalized or arrested multiple times due to incidents related to their mental illness, rather than keeping them in jail.
Michael, regional stakeholders and representatives from mental health advocacy organizations in the area applied for the federal grant after the Assisted Outpatient Treatment Act, or Senate Bill 113, was passed and signed by New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez on March 9, 2016. The Act, which was modeled after Kendra’s law in New York, allowed courts to order court-mandated, or assisted, outpatient treatment for people who are involved in the legal system due to a severe mental illness.
In Southern New Mexico, Michael, former County Commissioner Wayne Hancock, community stakeholders and mental health advocates from the Dona Ana Wellness Institute and Stepping Up Partnership joined efforts to reform the mental health system in the county last year, reported Sara Patricolo at New Mexico State University’s News Center. Along with the new jail diversion program that will be implemented in mid-2017, Michael and other key people in the region have taken important steps to improve the treatment of people with mental illness in New Mexico.
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About the author
Amanda Habermann is a writer for Sovereign Health. A graduate of California Lutheran University, she received her M.S. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in psychiatric rehabilitation. She brings to the team her background in research, testing and assessment, diagnosis and recovery techniques. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at email@example.com.
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