Heard presentation on restorative justice

[Editor's Note: Because this author was also at the Gila Regional Medical Center emergency meeting, she was late to this meeting and missed the first part of GCCHC Director Cari Lemon's report.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

At the bi-monthly (every two months) meeting of the Grant County Community Health Council on Monday afternoon at the Border Area Mental Health conference room, after introductions, council Director Cari Lemon presented her report verbally.

Member Judy O'Loughlin, incoming co-chairwoman representing the Extension Service, moderated the meeting.

Lemon said an item to be discussed at this July meeting was what should be the health council's "Super-priority," in order to receive Department of Health funding this year. The super priorities, as set forth by NMDOH are diabetes prevention, obesity prevention, teen-pregnancy prevention and substance abuse prevention. Lemon said this all comes down to showing health councils' effectiveness as an argument for the state to once again fund them.

Discussion ensued on how other groups in the community are working on several of these and how they should partner in the efforts. Hidalgo Medical Services, the Grant County Extension Office and the health council will work together on addressing the diabetes prevention. The Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and the Inmate Support Group are working on substance abuse issues, and already partnering with the health council.

During the sector reports later in the meeting, Eric Vreeland, alternate for Father Jarek Nowacki, representing the ministerial sector, said the Las Cruces Catholic Diocese, of which the Catholic churches in Grant County are part, is working on suicide prevention, which is primarily occurring in teens. Lemon will work with the group to address the issue in Grant County.

Continuing with her report, Lemon said, following the Health Council retreat in May, she met with Health Council Member Dan Otero, Hidalgo Medical Services CEO, who facilitated the session, to organize teams around the priorities chosen at the retreat.

Otero asked if this changes the direction the GCCHC was headed in following the retreat. Lemon responded: "It does impact the direction we were heading with our re-organization from the retreat. Not entirely, but definitely to some degree. Therefore there will be a pause in meeting with each team."

Lemon said she attended a recent New Mexico Alliance of Health Councils meeting where there were beginning discussions about partnering with the New Mexico Association of Counties to help provide programs that serve the needs of the counties where the health councils are located.

She also announced Red Hot Children's Fiesta will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Penny Park. "It's a resource fair for children and families. Booth participants provide services to families and activities for kids."

Health Council Member Jim Helgert announced the Recovery Grant County event would take place Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gough Park. "We are also doing Narcan training (for those who have qualified access to the drug antidote the nasal spray naloxone) and working hard on Tu Casa, which will open in February 2018."

Otero said he is also coordinating resources for Narcan in Hidalgo County to train the trainer for law enforcement. He said he was ready to kick off the team to "lead the charge on substance abuse."

Member Terry Anderson announced ane invitation to the presentation by Celissa Hoyt, a national expert in shared services, at a hosted breakfast from 8-9:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 25, at the Western New Mexico University Global Resource Center.

Community Partnerships for Children (CPC) is hosting the informational breakfast for community leaders to learn about the Shared Services Model that can be a business model for early childcare/education. CPC is bringing in the national expert who will provide a day-long training for CPC members. With early childcare being in crisis in Grant County due to reduction in facilities, CPC is inviting stakeholders and leaders to learn about the extent of the crisis and how Shared Services can turn things around, as well as the importance of their coming on board to implement it. Losing Little Lambs Day Care Center impacts employers and employees, and thus, the local economy.

Stewart Rooks, member representing the agriculture sector, shared that on July 28, a one-day program, "Ag in the Classroom" would take place at WNMU. It is a nationally recognized program that comes with lesson plans already developed that integrate most subjects (i.e. math, history, English, etc.). It provides rich resources and materials for teachers. He mentioned that Farm Bureau instructors could come to the classrooms and teach the subject matter if teachers aren’t confident teaching the materials but want to use it in their classroom. The cost of the program is $25 for teachers, and participation is capped at 25. Rooks also mentioned there is an opportunity to sponsor lunch.

Connie Glenn, member representing the workforce sector, said her office at Workforce Connections has several jobs available for people and to direct those seeking employment to the office on Broadway. "Employers are hiring."

Otero noted that a lot of people are joining around the opioid crisis. "We are partnering with folks, but it's a challenge to get paid. I'm keeping a close eye on Medicaid and the impact it will have on the state."

Kathleen Hunt, representing the mental health sector, asked Otero and Helgert to keep her in the loop. "We are moving forward with seeing more clients at Border Area Mental Health Services and New Mexico Options. We're looking to hire someone."

O’Loughlin will begin the 6-week Manage my Chronic Disease: Diabetes on Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Grant County Extension Office on Silver Street. The class is held once a week for 6 weeks. O’Loughlin has been trained in the MyCD Program. It is nationally and internationally known and evidence-based, developed and tested by Stanford University. It is meant for caregivers of someone with diabetes or individuals living with diabetes.

Joe Kellerman, representing Gila Regional Medical Center arrived late from the GRMC Board of Trustees emergency meeting, also. He noted attendees filled the room almost to capacity for the emergency meeting. He shared that the upcoming Health Talk is about the importance of getting a colonoscopy for preventative care.

Marilyn Alcorn, representing the senior sector, said she was working with Lemon on programs for seniors.

Anderson brought up the issue of the health council doing an assessment. "People keep telling me we need new data to know where we're at." Anderson added that she had a brief discussion with Misty Pugmire, Head Start Director, about the possibility of partnering to do a Community Assessment. Health Council members periodically for a few months have discussed about whether or not a new Community Assessment needs to be done since it has been 5 years since the last one. Lemon asked what is the difference in information that a Community Assessment provides that is not already available in the NM IBIS, the NM Indicator Based Information System, NM public health database. This needs to be examined before money and effort is invested in an assessment.

Kellerman said a survey could be done with Survey Monkey or Google Survey, for which one does not have to pay, even for the number of entries that would be required.

During items for approval, O'Loughlin and Mary Alice Murphy were approved as transitioning from co-chairs Priscilla Lucero and Terry Anderson to be the new co-chairs for the Health Council.

A date was required for the annual meeting. It was approved that the date be annually at the September meeting. It will require a slight change to the bylaws and perhaps the policies and procedures.

Special guests Louis Pacias of Children, Youth and Families Department and Jeannette Martinez of Circle of Justice gave a presentation and led a discussion on the revised Restorative Justice Program.

Hunt said BAMHS has been asked to partner in the program and several of her staff were recently trained in it. "What should we be aware of, as it becomes a part of our menu of services?"

Helgert said the Restorative Justice Program is a good one. "It can work, but the previous individual who was in charge here made promises, took a lot of money and did nothing," Helgert alleged. "I was on the board, but when I saw what was happening, I resigned because we never saw anything from the money."

Hunt pointed out that the previous provider had caused a lot of trust issues. "Border Area has been in the community for more than 45 years. The plan we have is to start slowly with the circles. We will make reports every step of the way and will be monitored by the state. Jeannette will coach us. She's highly reputable."

"I've been an advocate for 17 years," Martinez said. "Restorative justice is my passion. It's all about restoring relationships, supporting victims and offenders. What you went through here grieves me."

She said the program should look at who has been harmed and how victims have a voice, as well as determining the needs of the victim. "We can put the offender on probation, but how do we get them to be part of repairing the harm? We can help them empathize with the victim and the community and how they should deal with the harm they've done."

Martinez said the circle process is deeper, where you start at the beginning to understand the relationships. "What needs to happen to make things right? We have to have people who are trained well who understand the trauma. I apologize to you from my professional perspective over what you experienced. My role with CYFD is to train and assist with the implementation and with the protocol and procedures."

Sixth Judicial District Judge Timothy Aldrich, a guest at the meeting, said he was trained in 1993 in restorative justice in a community where they had a traumatic happening. "They taught me that we have to collaborate with the community, and have punishment and consequences. I was spanked as a child, so I knew punishment. When a person understands consequences, they can take steps to improve. But how do we implement this when youths are addicted?"

Martinez said part of the process is to assess whether the victim and the offender are ready for the program. "Restorative justice does not fit in every situation. People have to be really well trained. A lot of the prep work in restorative work is to determine if the victim would need counseling. If they want to utilize the process, we can help them. The idea is to use the circle process to internalize the offender's harm to the victims and the community."

Pacias said the selection process would be used on adjudicated youths. "We would evaluate kids that are appropriate for the process."

Helgert asked what the screening process would look like. Pacias said it is being used as an innovative service. "In June, we trained five different providers in five counties. Right now recidivism is a problem. We want kids to go to college and specialized schools after high school. If they can look inside and feel good about themselves, we will be much better off."

Hunt said the evaluation panel would include Helgert, the district attorney, the sheriff and law enforcement.

Kellerman asked if it could pull someone away from a felony conviction and give them a chance.

"With juveniles, at a certain age their records are sealed, but with older ones it's harder," Pacias said. "Judges and the system are working now. For instance, if a juvenile is caught shoplifting, he or she is not put on formal probation. The JPPO has restorative justice working in your community."

"We are also concerned about the ones before adjudication," Martinez said. "Information can come out to harm a case if they enter restorative justice first. No. 1, we must not re-victimize the victim."

Pacias said there is a fee for service, but Border Area will not be getting new funding.

"I'm here to support you," Helgert said. "I'm working on the third generation of offenders now."

Aldrich said he believes in instant consequences for the offenders.

Kellerman asked if there were an education element to restorative justice.

Aldrich said: "I would argue this is it. The reflective part in the circle process is a mirroring process. It is a continuum which also addresses the informal before they are adjudicated."






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