New law aims to expand access to mental health resources in New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico wants to help more people get access to behavioral health services to combat mental stress brought on by the ongoing pandemic.

The state is eliminating copays for mental health services to ensure people can seek treatment as they cope with uncertainty, anxiety and grief.

"Not only have they lost loved ones to this pandemic but also we sort of lost this idea of what our lives looked like and we don’t really know when that’s going to look a little bit more stable," said Latitia Brown Ortiz, an Albuquerque therapist with Seasons of Change.

Last year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law Senate Bill 317, which eliminates copays and other cost-sharing for people with insurance who seek behavioral health services, such as therapy.

"We have eliminated copays for behavioral health services and we’ve begun the great task of rebuilding a mental health care infrastructure that was decimated," the governor mentioned during her State of the State address Tuesday.

Brown Ortiz says the counseling community is still navigating that change. However, she sees this as a turning point for mental health.

"I think people have come to terms with the idea that counseling is there to help you work out little tangles in your head that are not helping you live the life you want to live," Brown Ortiz said.

Brown Oritz says, at one point, she had a months-long waiting list as demand for mental health help soared during the pandemic. Thankfully, she was able to bring more therapists on staff but it is still a challenge in the state.

"I think everyone who runs an agency or who runs a practice has been searching for therapists since there really are not enough therapists in the state of New Mexico," Brown Ortiz stated. "There’s a pretty good shortage and that shortage is in the whole medical community."

According to Brown Ortiz, it’s always best to check with your insurance provider regarding questions about copays and what is covered.