Udall, Heinrich Announce $700,000 Grant to Help Doña Ana County Treat Chronic Mental Illness

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced a $700,000 grant awarded to Doña Ana County as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) grant program to improve the health and social outcomes of individuals suffering from chronic mental illnesses. The AOT grants support pilot programs designed to reduce the incidence and duration of psychiatric hospitalization, homelessness, incarcerations and interactions with the criminal justice system for those suffering serious mental illness by improving outpatient treatment plans and allowing these individuals to remain with their families and in their communities while receiving treatment.

"Too many New Mexicans suffering from chronic mental illness find themselves stuck in the justice system or hospitalized rather than with their families, receiving the care they need to improve their well-being. Incarceration and hospitalization often fail to address the underlying illnesses patients suffer from, and the trauma can make a patient's already serious condition far worse," Udall said. "I am pleased to hear Doña Ana County was awarded this grant to give its health facilities and the courts the opportunity to provide the kind of treatment they know patients need. I will continue to fight for resources in the Senate that improve the way we provide mental health care in our communities."

"Access to effective treatment can make all the difference for patients battling serious mental illness," said Heinrich. "In New Mexico, far too few people with behavioral health conditions receive the help they need. These much-needed dollars will help programs in Doña Ana County function more effectively and implement new innovated approaches to serving patients. I’ll continue to fight for better mental health resources."

District Court Judge Mary Rosner, who worked with Doña Ana County to acquire the AOT grant said, "I am thrilled for our community. Increasing mental health services in southern New Mexico is a good thing, and I am ready to get to work."

The AOT grant will help Doña Ana County treatment centers hire professionals to track and coordinate treatment for patients, giving judges the ability to mandate outpatient treatment when someone suffering from serious mental illness comes before the court, rather than hospitalization or incarceration. The AOT grant program is administered by the HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and can be renewed up to four years.