The Rio Arriba County Commission Nov. 19 endorsed the New Mexico Counties 2020 legislative priorities, which center around strengthening county law enforcement and behavioral health programs for prisoners.
New Mexico Counties is a nonprofit dedicated to representing New Mexico’s 33 counties at the state level.
The organization is encouraging the Legislature to prioritize four matters of import to the counties, according to the County endorsement of the priorities. The organization has requested that all 33 county commissions approve the priorities for the 2020 legislative session.
The organization is first asking that the Legislature increase funds to reimburse counties that are housing state prisoners in their detention facilities, following the County Detention Facility Reimbursement Act; that the Legislature create a line item in the Department of Finance & Administration for $750,000 to reimburse county sheriffs’ offices that transport state prisoners; and that the Legislature appropriate an annual $5 million to the Emergency Medical Services Fund and create mechanisms for the growth and stability of this fund.
Second, New Mexico Counties is asking the state to distribute more funds from the Law Enforcement Protection Fund to counties’ law enforcement teams “to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement systems.”
Third, the organization hopes the state will increase funding for the Human Services Department so that inmates can receive behavioral health care in prison and upon release.
Behavioral health programs involving housing opportunities, public assistance, medical and mental health care, and employment training will help lower recidivism rates, the resolution states.
“At the detention we have a problem where we’ll have prisoners that, they more so need counseling than they need to be in prison, and we can’t find alternatives so that they can get counseled or they can see a psychiatrist or anything like that,” County Manager Tomas Campos said in support of the resolution at the Nov. 19 meeting. “The resources just aren’t available in the state.”
Fourth, the organization is encouraging the state to oppose increases in Public Employees Retirement Association contributions from local governments. The resolution states that New Mexico’s local government contributions are among the highest in the U.S. and that taxpayers will likely have to absorb any increases in contributions from county governments.
District 2 Commissioner Leo Jaramillo moved to approve the endorsement, and District 1 Commissioner James Martinez seconded the motion.