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Grant County Prospectors Communication forum part 4

[Editor's Note: This forum took place on Nov. 28, 2017. However, the holidays and other issues prevented this author from writing the forum up for the Beat. This is part 4 and covers the first few of the non-profit organization presentations.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The Grant County Prospectors held their annual Legislative Communications Forum on Nov. 28, 2017 at Western New Mexico University's Light Hall.

The purpose of the annual Prospectors Communications Forum is for the area legislators to hear from community entities on their needs, not only for capital outlay and appropriations, but on policy.

The area legislators, who listen and ask questions, include District 28 Sen. Howie Morales, District 38 Rep. Rebecca Dow and District 39 Rep. Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez.

Susan Wilger, National Center for Frontier Communities executive director, presented for the agency.

"I will be I will be talking to you about a proposed Joint Memorial we will be presenting. It's called the Frontier Village Investment Development Act or Frontier VIDA," Wilger said. " The purpose is to form a work group to provide help to our rural communities. In New Mexico more than 50 percent of our small communities are unincorporated, and are micropolitan areas, with no access to funding streams. We, at Frontier Communities, work throughout the state to help groups that are not eligible for certain funding or don't have the capacity to pursue funding. Oftentimes, unincorporated areas, small towns and villages and colonias, as well as a lot of tribal communities, get the crumbs of the crumbs of funding of $300 to $1,000. We are looking at studies on how to nourish these unincorporated areas."

Morales asked who was carrying the joint memorial. Wilger said Sen. Cisneros on the Senate side and Rep. Martinez on the House side.

"I will ask how will it be funded," Wilger continued. "We are hoping the study will be funded through the Economic Development Department and we are meeting with other groups and foundations next week."

Grant County Community Health Council Director Cari Lemon gave the presentation with health council co-chair Judy O'Loughlin with her.

Lemon introduced the new co-chairs, O'Loughlin and this writer.

" We are here to provide some information about health councils in general," Lemon said. "The fact sheet has some specific bullet points."

She said the role of a health council is complex. "An important piece is to address the pressing needs of the community and rally the community to find solutions."

Lemon noted that the Department of Health still provides some funding to the health councils throughout the state. "This year we received $4,855 for each health council to identify a specific focus area. The DOH wants evidence to advocate for paying health councils more."

After looking at the New Mexico Indicator Base Information System, learning that "Wow! The state rate for suicide is 21.1 percent making New Mexico No. 5 in the country. Grant County is much over that at a rate 34.9 percent, so we chose suicide prevention and intervention as our focus area."

Recently, in partnership with the DOH and Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, the health council brought in DOH staff trained in suicide prevention to provide training. "We got 50 trained in QPR, question, persuade, refer."

Because five of the eight counties in the Southwest Region of Health Councils identified their focus as suicide prevention, "we are determining how we can collaborate together to share resources and work together."

She said the Grant County Community Health Council has about one year of funding remaining, "so we continue to look for grants. We are asking for support for additional state funding for health councils. The New Mexico Alliance of Health Councils will be offering a bill to appropriate $18,000 each to health councils. I think they are still looking for a sponsor."

Dow said QPR is a great tool. "What grants are you using to supplement what you have?"

Lemon said the council is wrapping up a Con Alma grant from last year and has sent a letter of intent for a Freeport-McMoRan Community Investment Fund grant. "We continue to work with the southwest region to collaborate for other grants on common needs."

Dow asked about primary needs assessment data, because she sees huge value in them.

Morales said he was surprised that the bill did not have a sponsor. "I am fully supportive. Our health council has survived while others failed. What are your discussions on the opioid crisis?"

Lemon said the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, which came out of a four-year grant the health council brought in from the Office of Substance Prevention has as its priority, opioid prevention.

Morales asked also for an Inmate Support Group update.

Lemon said the Grant County commissioners recently signed up to join the Stepping Up initiative to address mental health issues and reduce the incarceration of inmates, as well as to help their integration back into the community. "There is a lot of similarity to what we are doing with the Inmate Support Group. There will be no bill this year because of this whole big change."

Morales asked if there is potential funding for Stepping Up.

"Down the road, I think," Lemon said. "We have to address the symptoms and indicators."

Martinez asked when the Stepping Up program begins with the inmate.

"It actually starts with Dispatch and first responders and goes through a whole process through the inmate's release," Lemon said. "After the release, the way I understand it, it's similar to the Inmate Support Program in that there will be a community resource connector specific to the individual to make sure they have the services they need."

Martinez said he carried the legislation for the Inmate Support Program and was hoping to introduce it again. "It had funding of $250,000 attached, so that's why it didn't go through last year. At the Appropriations Committee, they thought it was great, but the state had no funding." He also asked about suicide on the veterans' side. "We need to make sure the V.A. is providing the services."

"Save the date for the Heroes with Horses documentary," Lemon said.

Martinez said the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard a presentation from a group in Chama that uses horse therapy for PTSD in veterans and is having success.

Project Coordinator Terry Anderson, President Charlene Gomez and Anita Rios presented for the Community Partnership for Children.

Gomez said the group's current project is LiNKS, a sharing network for early education for kids. "We have 500 people licensed in the county for child care. We built a co-op between five LiNKS partners. We have created a relief squad of substitutes, we use Procare equipment and business management software. We have ongoing training from a national expert in shared services networking."

A partnership with the WNMU School of Business works with the part-time administrator to develop a business plan for the CPC. "Our goals include that we would love to have a one-stop enrollment hub for child care. Our focus will be on CYFD subsidized child care. We want to do bulk purchasing and to streamline budget and food provision. Anything to share costs will benefit all of us. Our barrier is sustainability. We get funding in small portions to do big projects."

Morales asked how they are building partnerships.

Anderson said the CPC is excited to have all but one child care center as part of the LiNKS program. "It's not about competition, but about supporting one another. Each program has a different philosophy and we're good with that. Our partners know they will have to put something back in, but they can share in the savings."

Morales said he would like to see the business plan and agreed that funding will be an issue. "You need to get employers on board with what you're doing from an economic development viewpoint." He also commended them on their work on behalf of Little Lambs trying to find a new place.

Anderson agreed and said the CPC had sent a letter of intent to the Freeport Community Investment Fund and hoped it would progress to the interview phase.

"There are so many barriers for small business from the agencies," Dow said. "Pulling Together resources are important to pulling everyone together. What you're doing is wonderful. You will get state and national attention on this project. I think you will see bulk purchase benefits. Was it mostly rules and regulations that stopped you from finding a place for Little Lambs?"

Anderson said child care has been fighting barriers for 40 years, "and we will continue. Other programs took many of the children in. Headstart has a waiting list. CDC has a small waiting list. Anita and I spent time talking to for-profits in Las Cruces that may come in. We pushed for them to come here. We are a pilot project and a model for the state and the only one in the state. If there is any pot of money to help us, our goal is to make it work for others all over the state."

Martinez asked what the age groups in the partners' child care operations were.

"We start at six weeks through school age," Anderson said. "Montessori and Let the Children Come have after school programs, too. School age is a big need. Especially with the new Cobre schools four-day week. Anita will tell you it's great-grandparents who are raising and caring for kids. We still have a large percentage of kids being taken care of in homes by great-grandparents because the grandparents are working to take care of the parents."

Martinez said the governor signed a bill for grandparents and great-grandparents to be able to enroll their grandkids into early education.

Rios said the fear of grandparents and great-grandparents of going through the process of getting them into a program is that they may have the child removed from their home by the parent taking them out of school and away from the grandparents.

"How do we protect the caregivers from CYFD?" Martinez asked. "We presented a bill, which gives options of how they can get help with care."

Rios said: "The big barrier is the hoops for the grandparents to go through to get food reimbursement. All kinds of barriers they have to go through. It goes back to the fear."

Anderson said she hoped Morales' idea of an Early Childhood Department will go through. "I look forward to a funding source from birth from the get go to help the families and the kids."

The final article will cover the rest of the non-profit organizations.

Live from Silver City

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