County officials will mark anniversary of Mental Wellness Resource Center with open house

Celebration will be held at facility at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Mental Wellness Resource Center opened its doors last year at 814 W. Maple St. in Farmington.
  • A celebration planned at the facility this week will feature speeches by county officials, presentations on the impact the center has had and refreshments.
  • The Mental Wellness Resource Center can be reached by phone at 505-636-7110.

FARMINGTON — As staff members of the San Juan County Mental Wellness Resource Center prepare to celebrate the facility's first anniversary this week, the challenges they face in continuing to help their clients in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic have made their job even more difficult.

That's according to Su Hodgman, the county's behavioral health services director.

"COVID's just thrown a monkey wrench into everything," she said. "If you're somebody who's stressed or anxious, it makes it even worse."

Many of the folks who come to the center fall into that stressed or anxious category, of course, and that is part of what has made the facility such a valuable enterprise, county officials say. Several members of the San Juan County Commission will be on hand when an open house celebration of the center's first year of operations takes place at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 814 W. Maple St. in Farmington.

The outdoor event will feature speeches by county officials, presentations on the impact the center has had and refreshments. Small-group tours of the facility also may be available, Hodgeman said.

"The biggest thing we've done is, we've enabled people to get the services they're looking for," she said. "The last two years have been chaotic, and mental health providers have been doing everything they can to get services to people."

Many people who need assistance fail to get it for reasons that have nothing to do with not wanting to seek help, Hodgman said. Many people simply are overwhelmed by what it takes to navigate the system — having the right documents, not knowing who to call to make an appointment or not having the transportation they need to get to an appointment even after they make one, she said.

More:'Greatest surge ever' — Hospital ER doctor warns of increase in COVID-19 numbers

Su Hodgman

The Mental Wellness Resource Center has peer mentors on staff whose job it is to help people clear those hurdles. The center was created last year after the county commissioned a behavioral health gap analysis in 2018 and discovered that many people who could have received assistance were falling through the cracks for those aforementioned reasons.

Hodgman said the center's peer mentors also help clients with such tasks as applying for Medicaid, applying for housing, paying their rent and accessing funding related to COVID-19 relief efforts.

"We don't make referrals, but we do make handoffs," she said, explaining that those efforts involve physical health as well as mental health providers. "We assist them with making those connections."

Hodgman acknowledged there is no shortage of folks in San Juan County who need that kind of help. The numbers from the center's first year seem to bear that out. San Juan County spokesman Devin Neeley provided figures that show the center assisted 614 clients in its first year — an average of nearly two per day. A total of 128 of those clients were referred to the center by law enforcement officials, and 192 of them wound up being connected with a provider after coming into contact the center.

More:San Juan County, Navajo Nation COVID-19 case updates for October 2021

Neeley said the two most common issues among those clients was a need for housing, or a need for mental health or substance abuse services.

As the public's degree of familiarity with the center has grown since its opening, Hodgman said the number of folks it has helped has gone up.

"Absolutely. There is good word of mouth," she said, noting that many clients the center has helped have recommended the facility to others in their social circle.

She credited the work of her staff for the center's successful first year.

"They're all fantastic," she said. "You can tell they really love their jobs."

The Mental Wellness Resource Center can be reached by phone at 505-636-7110. Online resources are also available at SJCounty.net/MWRC.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.