San Juan County initiative aimed at improving access to services like health, job training
100% San Juan County will hold March 29 meeting in Farmington
- The 100% San Juan County initiative is a division of a statewide organization called 100% New Mexico that has been operating for the past couple of years.
- The 100% New Mexico initiative is sponsored by New Mexico State University.
- The initiative is designed to approach the issues it faces on a county-by-county basis.
FARMINGTON — Participants in a new San Juan County initiative aimed at improving access for residents to such vital services such as job training, behavioral health and food security will meet next week in Farmington.
The 100% San Juan County initiative is a division of a statewide organization called 100% New Mexico that has been operating for the past couple of years. The 100% New Mexico initiative is sponsored by New Mexico State University and was founded by Katherine Ortega Courtney and Dominic Capello, who met while working in New Mexico's Child Protective Services Department.
They wrote a book called "Anna, Age Eight" that examined child welfare and outlined how to use a data-driven process to address the root causes of abuse, neglect and adverse childhood experiences.
Kathy Price, who serves as a member of the 100% San Juan County core design team, said the initiative is designed to approach the issues it faces on a county-by-county basis, first by conducting a survey of what access to those vital services is like.
Those 10 services include medical care, behavioral health care, food security programs, housing security programs, transportation to vital services, parent supports, early childhood learning, community schools, youth mentors and job training.
"It's really time this can take root in San Juan County," said Price, a former teacher who now works as a regional child care coordinator for the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department.
Anyone interested in taking part in the initiative is encouraged to attend a meeting set for 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 29 at the Connect Space, 203 W. Main St. in downtown Farmington. Anyone who wishes to join the meeting virtually is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Price said she had seen the impact 100% New Mexico groups have had in Taos and Rio Arriba counties and decided to help develop an initiative in San Juan County. She said the first step for the local group is determining whether a full survey of what access is like to those 10 vital services is necessary in San Juan County.
"We already have a draft survey the statewide organization created for us," she said. "But we need to decide, 'Do we already have some of that information?' We also have assurances from some other organizations that will help us distribute (a survey). The point is to figure out, what are the needs, what are the barriers?"
Prices said some of the answers to those questions already are apparent.
"One big issue we have in our community is transportation," she said, explaining that she has spoken to folks who sometimes endure a two-hour bus ride just to get to a grocery store or a job. One grandmother she spoke to said she pushes a stroller 2 miles to deliver a youngster to child care.
"I wouldn't want to do that every day," Price said.
The 100% San Juan Country core team has seven members, but Price has compiled a mailing list with well in excess of 100 names on it of people who have expressed interest in working on the initiative. She said that list includes representatives of the San Juan United Way, the Salvation Army, the New Mexico State University Extension Office, the San Juan County Commission and other entities.
The goal of the initiative is to develop teams that are devoted to improving access for residents to each of the 10 services, Price said. While those teams will work separately, she hopes to see them develop a synergy that leads to all of them making progress.
That already has been the case elsewhere in New Mexico, Price said, explaining that San Miguel and Dona Ana counties have had active countywide initiatives for the past few years and have made substantial progress. In Las Cruces, she said, a family development center has been created that provides one-stop shopping for individuals seeking access to those 10 vital services. And in Las Vegas, New Mexico, she said, data shows that access to those coordinated services over the past two years was better than it was even before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Varying degrees of commitment are being sought from those who agree to take part in the San Juan County effort, Price said.
"Some projects can be short term," she said. " … But in some cases, it might take three to five years to really tackle some of the really big barriers."
Price said she never really thought of herself as a community activist, but she said the common-sense approach of the 100% New Mexico initiative made it irresistible to her.
"The solutions are out there," she said. "We know what the solutions can be. We just need to have the will to pull it all together."
For more information, visit https://www.100nm.org/sanjuan/.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.