ALBUQUERQUE – Today, Mayor Tim Keller highlighted the resources of the city of Albuquerque during Mental Health Awareness Month. This month, the city of Albuquerque is highlighting its Addiction Treatment and Addiction (PATH) program to help people facing substance abuse problems. The PATH program provides vouchers for complete addiction treatment programs at no cost to those who cannot afford it.
“Substance abuse is a widespread problem in our city and access to treatment may be impossible for people who do not have insurance to cover the costs,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “I want to remind anyone who is faced with the choice between getting help and paying the rent or food that the PATH program is here for you.”
Following Mayor Keller’s proclamation declaring the month of mental health in May, the city relaunched the PATH program, including short videos highlighting this important program. You can see them on Family and Community Services’ Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Another key component to addressing Albuquerque addiction issues is making sure that people who have committed crimes as a result of their addiction receive the help they need. Studies also show that people in treatment are less likely to engage in criminal behavior and experience an overdose, up to 50%.
Through collaboration and innovative thinking, Albuquerque is working with partners to divert people entering the judicial system to treatment and is in the process of raising Albuquerque’s first community security department to provide a non-police response and a Slow health community to calls where someone needs help for mental health issues or substance abuse.
“Family and community services are committed to helping people with addiction or mental health issues, but we know we can’t do it alone,” said Gilbert Ramirez, deputy director of the family and community services department. “That’s why we’re working in partnership with ACS, APD, AFR, City Council and community partners to build a support network that not only removes pressure from medical professionals and public safety employees, but that it also gets real help from the people. “
ACS will include professionals trained as social workers, housing and homelessness specialists, experts in violence prevention and diversion programs. The department will give the option to send the 9-1-1 when a community security response is more appropriate than a paramedic, firefighter, or armed police officer. These efforts will reinforce expanded investments in anti-violence interventions, diversion programs, and treatment initiatives.
Recently, the city announced the new ACS leadership team tasked with launching and executing this reinvented public safety approach:
- Mariela Ruiz-Angel is the first director of the department and previously served as city coordinator for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs;
- Jasmine Desiderio is deputy director and was previously coordinator of the COVID-19 vaccine project at the New Mexico State Department of Health, where she was instrumental in the planning, logistics, and implementation of the COVID-vaccine plan. 19 of New Mexico; i
- From Albert Hall as deputy director and arrives in Albuquerque after more than 15 years in Las Vegas, Nevada, serving the needs of teens, young adults and their families for the Clark County Department of Family Services.
“We need additional resources to address the significant number of APD and AFR calls related to addiction and mental health, and this is where ACS comes in,” Ruiz-Angel said. “ACS can respond from a community health perspective and connect people with resources instead of channeling them to prison or the emergency room.”
Learn more about PATH at cabq.gov/thepath. While there are requirements to qualify for a voucher, anyone in need of treatment can contact city-funded service providers and they will help you determine the next steps. Anyone experiencing an immediate crisis or having thoughts of suicide is encouraged to immediately call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-784-2433 or the U.S. National Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.