San Miguel HIA Team
The New Mexico Highlands University School of Social Work and the NMHU Foundation, Inc. received a grant and partnered with the San Miguel County Detention Center and its Citizen Advisory Committee, the Las Vegas Peace & Justice Center, the San Miguel County Family and Community Health Council, and numerous other community partners to conduct a Health Impact Assessment in the northeastern part of New Mexico. Communities here, which include San Miguel, Mora and Guadalupe Counties, struggle with higher than average rates of unemployment, substance abuse, DWIs, poverty, lack of access to health care and other basic services. These conditions lead to higher incarceration and recidivism rates. The health inequities among those who end up incarcerated are especially apparent. An Adult Reintegration Center has been proposed as a way to help address some of these health disparities. General goals of the Center would include: Reduce recidivism rates (currently at approximately 80%); improve overall health and safety of the community; promote mutual understanding and respect within the community; and enhance community-based partnerships. The HIA is currently underway to address the feasibility of a Reintegration Center for this region. The HIA Team is partnered with NMHU students who are conducting research to document the potential impacts a Reintegration Center would have on the communities in NE New Mexico.
Positive Impacts of the HIA
The HIA has commanded attention from decision makers and led to the adoption of some community recommendations. Government entities including: the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners, the City of Las Vegas, the San Miguel County Family and Community Health Councils, and the Guadalupe County Behavioral Health Crisis Task Force unanimously passed resolutions in support of the HIA’s findings and recommendations and construction launched on the reintegration center in 2015. The HIA has become highly visible and is frequently referenced in county commission meetings, both by elected officials and the community during public input. Furthermore, the HIA process cultivated community leadership. Frances Lucero and Victoria Baca, both women of color who had personally struggled with addiction and experienced incarcerated, emerged as strong leaders through their participation in the HIA community meetings.
Continued Action through Small Group Gatherings and Policy Advocacy!
In August 2015, as a follow up to the HIA, HEP partnered with Pat, Frances, Victoria and other community advocates to host an action-oriented small group gathering series. At one of the gatherings, Frances and Victoria shared their stories with the warden. While they were grateful the reintegration center was moving forward, they raised concerns that it was only going to be accessible to men. Based on their own lived experiences, they made the recommendation to the warden, that the services be made available to women in the detention center nearby. The warden agreed to launch a pilot program for the reintegration center’s services to be made available to the women’s pod. Furthermore, he approved Frances offering Narcotics Anonymous services to the women.
In 2016, HEP staff worked with Pat, Frances, Victoria and many community volunteers to support them to plan, design, and host a policy advocacy day at the Spot in Las Vegas called “Advocacy For and With Each Other”. The purpose was to build unity and to learn about incarceration, addiction, and poverty in Northeast New Mexico. Over 80 diverse individuals attended. Frances and Victoria shared their inspiring stories, as individuals who have been through the system, and offered practical solutions. The event was also an opportunity to learn from Abuko D. Estrada, New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty Staff Attorney about upcoming policy issues relevant to the 2017 legislative session. Renea Roberts of R3Productions filmed the event and developed a film so Frances and Victoria can continue to share their stories and educate community members and decision makers about poverty, addiction, and incarceration. The convening produced great commitment by participants to create change in their community and engage in advocacy to educate decision makers. The community is truly organizing!
HIA Project Coordinator
- San Miguel County HIA Reintegration Center – KFUN/KLVF Radio Interview September 25, 2014
- A Health Impact Assessment of the Proposed Northeast New Mexico Adult Reintegration Center – March 2015 (Completed HIA report)
- REINTEGRATION CENTER, Presentation of Final HIA Report to San Miguel County Board of Commissioners – March 10, 2015