Created: 04/30/2014 10:30 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Reporter's Notebook: Taking on an issue as broad and complicated as mental illness is daunting. It's difficult to find a beginning point or an ending point for that matter. The magnitude and depth of the issues related to affordable healthcare options, access to treatment, family support, and societal acceptance are far too great to cover in one story. It's the intention of KOB-TV and its 4 On Your Side Investigative Unit to look at the issue from different angles and different perspectives. This story on its own cannot dare to explain every problem or figure out every solution, but it's a start.
In this story, you'll find we boiled the problems down to three basic points. Based on our conversations with experts in the judicial system and behavioral health field, some key problems in New Mexico include adequate funding for mental health needs, familial involvement in therapy, and judicial jurisdiction.
Based on the latest figures by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization specializing in healthcare issues, New Mexico funding per capita for mental health falls below the national average.
This link takes you to the website for a state-by-state comparisons.
Even though there are a growing number of treatment options, especially in Bernalillo County, judges find that there are problems keeping people on treatment once jurisdiction ends for an offender.
"There is no expiration date on a mental health issue, but there is on my jurisdiction and that is what all judges find so frustrating because sometimes you see a case where you are making progress and then I have nothing left except to say goodbye and hope that the family can find other resources to assist them," explained Judith Nakamura, a judge for New Mexico's 2nd Judicial District.
Thirdly, psychologists find that therapy is more successful when family members offer support and are actively involved. But too often, family members grow exhausted after years of dealing with serious issues like substance abuse or life-long mental illnesses. In many cases, family and close friends have simply given up on the individual. The remoteness of some treatment centers contributes to a lack of family involvement. For example, there are treatment centers in Southern New Mexico that take patients from Farmington, Raton, and Clayton. The long driving distances often discourage family members from becoming actively involved in treatment.
This story is a first start to addressing obstacles to successfully handling a growing population of New Mexicans suffering from mental illnesses. As New Mexico's premiere investigative unit, we commit to continue to offer solutions and examine this important topic.