Albuquerque city councilors propose mental health taskforce

Updated: 05/10/2014 8:20 PM | Created: 05/10/2014 8:13 PM
By: Kai Porter, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Albuquerque city leaders plan to form a taskforce to tackle the mental health crisis in New Mexico.

At a news conference on Saturday, city, county and state leaders agreed that something needs to be done to help the state's growing mentally ill--and often homeless--population.

Albuquerque city councilors Brad Winter and Isaac Benton are sponsoring a memorial calling for a multi-agency taskforce to discuss ways to address the mental health crisis.

"I think it's really timely right now given some of the situation we've encountered with law enforcement encountering mentally ill persons," Benton said.

Winter says the shooting of James Boyd was a big wakeup call. Two APD officers shot and killed the mentally ill homeless man in March.

City leaders say the mental health crisis is putting a strain on jails. For example, in March alone, 969 inmates in the Metropolitan Detention Center were in the psych services unit. That's 52 percent of the jail's population.

City leaders say mental illness among inmates is also associated with a higher rate of homelessness.

"They're treated when they're locked up. They are treated. They have a very good program. But when they're released, then they don't have any place to go, so it's kind of a circle," Winter said.

The councilor also said often times police officers are forced to confront the mentally ill without the proper resources. Albuquerque police will also be a part of the taskforce.

The memorial will officially be presented for a vote at the next city council meeting on May 19. The city councilors sponsoring the proposal hope to have a taskforce in place within a month.

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