Twice the Care

Santa Fe County’s new crisis treatment and detox center filling crucial need but work remains, officials say

It’s been about six months since La Sala Crisis Center opened its doors to those in need of behavioral health treatment or assistance safely withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. In that time, the 27-bed facility has helped about 600 people detox, officials say.

That marks a considerable increase in the capacity of Santa Fe Recovery Center, a local nonprofit contracted by Santa Fe County to run the detox program.

In 2020, before La Sala, the recovery center admitted 722 patients into its program, which had a 15-person capacity, Laura Grant, chief operating officer of the center, told the County Commission at its Jan. 11 meeting.

The recovery center also brought on a new medical director last summer and expanded its offerings to help people suffering from a wider range of problems.

“Individuals who were previously excluded because of certain drug use are now admitted, so we will take clients using fentanyl, benzodiazepine, as well as clients with serious psychological diagnoses as long as they’re on medication,” Grant said at the commission meeting. “This is a significant philosophical shift in how we are admitting clients to detox.”

But county officials say there are still unmet needs in the community, and additional facilities may be necessary.

La Sala has been a long time coming.

Voters approved a $2 million bond for the center in 2016, and the County Commission authorized a gross receipts tax to contribute $1.6 million annually to fund operational costs.

Construction at 2052 Galisteo St. began in 2020 and the center opened in two phases last summer. While Santa Fe Recovery Center runs the detox program, New Mexico Solutions, another local nonprofit, is offering services to patients experiencing mental health crises.

The average stay in the detox program is five days. Patients can access medication management, therapy, 12-step meetings, help registering for food stamps, peer support and more.

When patients leave the facility, they’re tracked for six months. Over 90% of patients have continued recovery in residential or outpatient treatment programs, Grant said in response to a question from a commissioner at last week’s meeting.

Center staff have been working to develop relationships with local hospitals and homeless shelters, but closer coordination with police and fire departments and the county jail is needed, Kate Field, director of crisis services for New Mexico Solutions, told the commission.

“We’ve had only brief conversations with the behavioral health staff at the jail to discuss re-entry possibilities at the crisis center,” Field said. “That is a massive service and it’s absolutely where we have a gap in connecting individuals who are released and getting them into services. I would love to see that become a part of what we do.”

Several commissioners raised concerns about demand and gaps in long-term care in areas such as housing and employment.

“The need is moving further out in the continuum of care,” Grant told commissioners. “Recovery housing, workforce development, community—the pillars of your recovery.”

Commissioner Hank Hughes pointed to a project the county recently voted to help fund that would convert the Lamplighter Inn into affordable housing.

“I’m hoping that we can have a plan where all of these things sort of come together and we eventually meet the whole need,” said Hughes, who’s also the executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. “We’re not close, I know.”

Commissioner Rudy Garcia raised the possibility of converting a building on Airport Road that served as the county’s juvenile detention center before the commission voted to close it in 2020.

La Sala only serves adults, and there’s a clear need for additional services for Santa Fe’s young people. Depression and anxiety symptoms have doubled during the pandemic, according to a public health advisory from the US Surgeon General, and the county doesn’t have overnight inpatient services for youths.

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