County commissioner asks first lady for help bringing more mental health resources to New Mexico
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Bernalillo County Commissioner spoke with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden about bringing more mental health resources to New Mexico.
District 5 County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty said addressing crime and homelessness starts with addressing mental health.
"And not everyone started out with a good life. A lot of people have trauma in their background and so when that goes untreated, people act out sometimes in bad ways,” Pyskoty said.
Commissioner Pyskoty, who is a licensed therapist, spoke with Dr. Biden during her visit to New Mexico last week. She asked the first lady for help to address the shortage of mental health providers in New Mexico.
"You know, she was really receptive. It just sort of clicked with her,” Pyskoty said. “She understood it right away, and I believe she made a comment about how she understood there was a big need for mental health providers."
According to the State Health and Human Services Department, New Mexico only has enough workers to handle 13% of the state’s mental health needs.
"Well I can tell you both as a therapist and commissioner that there is a huge need for behavioral health professional across the spectrum so psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurses, social workers, counselors,” the commissioner said.
Pyskoty said Dr. Biden told her she wanted to get together to address the issue.
"And then she said to me ‘Why don’t you work on that and contact my office and work with my office’ and as soon as I walked away one, of her staffers walked up to me and said here is my card, here is my e-mail, contact me,” she said.
The commissioner said if the White House and Dr. Biden are able to help, more people would sign up to work in behavioral health.
"Just a good marketing campaign. I think if the first lady and White House really kind of pushed that as a priority as something that we need, then it might strike up some interests in people to think about, maybe I should go into a mental health profession,” Pyskoty said.
Commissioner Pyskoty also suggested loan forgiveness for people going into the mental health field.
"…that if you go through a master’s program and get your master’s in counseling or social work or some other degree in mental health, that maybe every year you work in an underserved area, which New Mexico is, that it might knock a year off of your student loan debt,” she said.
Pyskoty said she sent a message to the White House and is waiting on a response.