DOÑA ANA COUNTY, New Mexico - After the $2.1 million building sat empty for nearly eight years, Doña Ana County's Crisis Triage Center served more than 600 people in its first year of operation, according to the county's health and human services department.
As of May 30th, the Crisis Triage Center has had 617 admissions, according to Jamie Michael, the county's director of health and human services.
"It's a brand new operation, so we were never expecting the first day they opened to be at full capacity," Michael said in a city council work session on May 23rd. "We were expecting it to take some time."
"Crisis triage is clearly data-driven," said Councilwoman Johana Bencomo in that meeting. "It's best practices for helping reduce the risk to someone in their families."
Doña Ana County invested in the construction of the Crisis Triage Center in the hopes of providing short-term mental health care to anyone who walks in the door experiencing a crisis. County planners hoped it would reduce the burden on law enforcement officers, hospitals and the county jail.
The Crisis Triage Center is free for anyone who wants to use it, but Michael said taxpayers must cover the cost of every patient not insured by Medicaid. She said the county needs at least six Medicaid patients a day to financially break even.
“We know right now that there’s probably that number showing up at the hospital emergency department that don’t need to be there," Michael said.
"People have suffered loss, illness, there's grief, loss of income - all of this trauma," Bencomo said. "We're seeing this play out in our community in many different ways."
In early October, the sheriff criticized the Crisis Triage Center for turning away a man because the center was short-staffed.
"This isn’t forgivable," the sheriff said in October. "This was a contract. The county paid for this. So, what services are we actually getting?"
A county spokeswoman said to her knowledge, a patient has not been turned away since.