Can San Juan County increase access to behavioral health care? Analysis offers suggestions

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Paul's Place houses the Joint Intervention Program.  A new analysis recommends expanding the program.

FARMINGTON — Nearly 20 percent of adults and an even greater percentage of youth in San Juan County report having serious suicidal thoughts, but an analysis released this month reveals services do not meet the community needs.

This is especially true for men, Native Americans, older residents and youth.

The analysis was paid for by San Juan County in an attempt to identify gaps in services. While the analysis does not lay out a strategic plan, it does offer potential solutions to bridging some of those gaps.

Here are some of the possible solutions mentioned in the analysis:

Create a San Juan County Human Services Coordinating Center

The analysis found a lack of coordination and collaboration between providers. In addition, there is no place people can go to find out what services are offered. A director could be hired this year. The analysis also suggests building an interactive website where patients can learn about providers and resources.

Expand Treatment Court

District Court operates treatment court for both drug addiction and mental health. In 2018, the treatment court served 70 individuals, according to the analysis. Treatment court is designed to help people overcome addiction and develop coping skills. It is available for people whose behavioral health conditions, such as addiction, have led to them committing crimes.

Develop a mobile crisis response team

This team would pair law enforcement officers with behavioral health clinicians to respond to calls where people are having a mental or behavioral health crisis.

Expand the Joint Intervention Program

The Joint Intervention Program provides substance abuse and mental health treatment for the people who spend the most time incarcerated or in the emergency room due to substance abuse or mental health conditions.

Partner with universities

There is a lack of qualified, licensed mental health professionals in San Juan County and behavioral health providers tend to see high turnover rates, lengthy vacancies and recruitment issues.

The analysis found there is insufficient training and education available to develop a behavioral health workforce. It suggests partnering with the University of New Mexico for training and supervision as well as psychiatric residencies.

The analysis also suggests offering a tuition stipend for people who earn a social work degree at New Mexico Highlands University with the stipulation that they remain and work in San Juan County after graduation.

It further suggests developing a behavioral health technician program at San Juan College

Peer drop-in centers

The analysis suggests using peer workers to help people with behavioral health conditions. A peer drop-in center would lessen social isolation, provide access to support groups, connect people with resources and help develop interpersonal relationships, the analysis states.

Bring services to the patients

The majority of services available are in Farmington, which can create challenges for rural San Juan County residents. The analysis recommends developing a home visitation program and increasing school-based mental health services to improve access to services.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at