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FARMINGTON — When San Juan County commissioned a study to analyze gaps in behavioral health services, one of the main resulting suggestions was for the county to hire a behavioral health director or coordinator.

The county followed through with that suggestion when it hired long-time county resident Su Hodgman to lead its efforts. Hodgman began her work at the county in October.

Hodgman has decades of experience helping people overcome addiction, including founding Masada House — a transitional living home for women. She has also worked at Four Winds Recovery Center and San Juan County Alternative Sentencing Division.

Now she carries a copy of the gap analysis with her and focuses on educating people she meets about the report. She commended the county for taking steps to address behavioral health and for commissioning the gap analysis, which can be found on the county's website, sjcounty.net.

As the county's first behavioral health director, she will be focused on building a new program and her first task will be developing a strategic plan.

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

In a press release announcing Hodgman’s new role, County Commission Chairman Jack Fortner said addressing behavioral health is important as the county works to improve quality of life for all its residents.

"Rather than the end of a process to address shortcomings of behavioral health in San Juan County, hiring a behavioral health director is the start," Fortner said. "We have identified the problems, now we can work to address them."

While Hodgman has a background in behavioral health, she has spent nearly half a decade as executive director of Northwest New Mexico First Born, which focuses on early childhood development.

“I’m always trying to find where I can make the most difference,” Hodgman said.

While she enjoyed early childhood development, she said she is passionate about helping people who are struggling with mental and behavioral health.

Her foray into behavioral health began with helping people who struggled with substance abuse and had been convicted of driving while intoxicated.

She views behavioral health struggles as being largely trauma-based, although she added certain people are genetically pre-dispositioned to having mental or behavioral health challenges.

Hodgman said the stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health has been decreasing but still remains. She said it should be viewed like other health disorders such as diabetes. Hodgman said diabetics are not told that they are bad people, but people who have a history of substance abuse are.

“For many people, it’s not a choice,” Hodgman said.

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

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