Create Specialty “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless” Court ” (OVH Court) Adding Civil Commitment Hearings; City Attorney, District Attorney And Public Defender Should Dedicate Attorney Resources Under Direction Of Court; Open City Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center

This blog article is a highly technical discussion and analysis of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Specialty Courts known as the Outreach Court, the Veterans Court and the Traffic Court Arraignment Program. The article cites in great detail the state laws that deal with the mentally ill and drug addiction. The article calls for the consolidation and creation of an “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless Court” combining Metro Court and State District Court resources and the city opening of a Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center at the Gibson Medical Center instead of a homeless shelter.

APD CRIMINAL LAW ENFORCMENT ACTIONS AGAINST HOMELESS

The City and the Albuquerque Police Department have adopted a “criminal citation” approach rather that and “arrest and confine” approach to deal with the homeless and the nonviolent felony crimes they commit. The main cause of this approach is the settlement of the federal case McClendon v. City of Albuquerque.

The McClendon case was a class-action lawsuit filed on January 10, 1995 in the United States Federal District Court by detainees at the Bernalillo County Detention Center (BCDC) in Albuquerque. The class-action lawsuit alleged that gross overcrowding and racial discrimination at the jail violated the constitutional rights of inmates.

In 2017 the city entered into a Stipulated Settlement Agreement in the McClendon federal case where the city agreed that people accused of nonviolent misdemeanors will not be arrested where there is no circumstances requiring an arrest. The primary reason for the settlement was to prevent jail overcrowding and it had absolutely nothing to do with or how the homeless are treated.

When it comes to “homeless crimes”, meaning illegal camping, criminal trespassing and loitering, those offenders are not to be arrested as the “primary intervention”. Under the settlement terms, police still have the option to issue citations and still have the discretionary authority to make felony and misdemeanor arrests as they deemed appropriate and where the circumstances warrant.

During the June 22, 2021 meeting of the Albuquerque City Council, a city attorney explained the federal pressures the city is operating under. The city attorney cited federal cases arguing that they place limitations on the city and he said this:

“[When it comes to] ‘quote, unquote’ homeless crimes, those offenders are not allowed to be arrested as a primary intervention”.

The APD adopted policy is Standard Operating Procedure 2-80-1 which states in part:

“Police Department policy is to arrest a felony violator of laws which its officers are empowered to enforce. Officers shall issue citations when appropriate in lieu of arrest on non-violent misdemeanor offenses (not to include DWIs) when there are no circumstances necessitating an arrest. In all cases, officers shall follow correct legal procedures required in arresting, booking, and filing charges against such violators.”

“HOMELESS” MISDEAMENOR CRIME CASES ARE OFFICER PROSECUTED CASES

The criminal misdemeanor citations issued by APD police can only be given when a police officer actually witnesses the offense. All such misdemeanor criminal citations are strictly officer prosecuted cases except DWI cases. What this means is that when it comes to the “homeless crimes” of illegal camping, criminal trespassing and loitering, those cases are prosecuted by police officers in Metro Court and do not involve prosecutors from the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office nor the Albuquerque City Attorney’s office.

KOB 4 contacted APD and asked them to quantify how they are enforcing the law when it comes to the low-level, nonviolent offenses committed by the homeless. An APD spokesman told KOB that since the beginning of 2022 there have been issued 2,308 citations to the homeless and it has issued 614 trespassing notices with 3 trespassing stops revealing outstanding warrants.

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/unm-law-professor-weighs-in-on-mayors-claims-about-homelessness/

When the homeless fail to show up for arraignments on the citations, bench warrants are issued by the Metro Court or a very large number of criminal citations wind up being dismissed because APD officers does not show to prosecute the cases.

CLOSURE OF CORONADO PARK

On July 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced the closure of Coronado Park. Keller said this in a statement:

“[The]situation is absolutely unacceptable, so we’re going to stop it. In August we’re closing Coronado Park. … It doesn’t matter if we know exactly what we’re doing next. It doesn’t matter exactly what the timing is or how we’re going to do it, but we have to do better than what’s happening at Coronado Park. There is a bed for every person [who stays at Coronado] to go. … The status quo will not stand … This remains a complex issue and while we work to determine what’s next for Coronado, we’ll keep stepping up to get folks connected to the right services and resources. …”

Keller admitted at the time of his announcement to close Coronado Park he had no real plan in place on how to deal with the closure of the park and the placement of upwards of 125 people about to be displaced. Keller essentially “pivoted” from one crisis he created known as Coronado Park to another crisis he will have to deal with when it comes to dealing with the homeless who will be displaced from the park.

A very large percentage of the Coronado Park homeless suffer from mental illness and/ or drug addiction. Many simply refuse “shelter housing” offered by the city, including the shelter housing in the west side 24-7 facility. Virtually none of the individuals who are displaced from Coronado Park will be placed at the Gibson Gateway Homeless Shelter in that it has yet to be opened.

THE CITY’S HOMELESS NUMBERS

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines sheltered homeless as “residing in an emergency shelter, motel paid through a provider or in a transitional housing program.” HUD defines “unsheltered homeless” as “those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation including streets, parks, alleys, underpasses, abandoned buildings, campgrounds and similar environments.”

Homeless providers consistently say the City has upwards of 5,000 homeless or near homeless. The city has upwards of 10 homeless service providers on contract and many of those 5,000 are already being provided with services. The real challenge is to convince that portion of the 5,000 who absolutely do not want any kind of services or help of any kind.

Each year the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country. The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

According to the most current PIT annual report, there were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque. The 2021 PIT count found that 73.6% of the homeless population was staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or using motel vouchers rather than sleeping in alleys, parks and other “unsheltered” locations.

Major highlights of the 2021 PIT report are as follows:

There were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque, a slight increase over the 2019 count of 1,524 homeless. The 2020 homeless count is 2.8% higher than in 2019 and 18.9% more than in 2017, despite the pandemic limiting the 2021 counting efforts.

The 2021 PIT count found that 73.6% of the homeless population was staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or using motel vouchers rather than sleeping in alleys, parks and other “unsheltered” locations. The 73.6% in the 2021 count is much a higher than the 2019 and 2017 PIT counts.

Albuquerque’s unsheltered homeless decreased from 567 people in 2019 to 413 in the 2021 count.

42% of Albuquerque’s unsheltered were defined as chronically homeless, meaning they had been continuously homeless for at least a year and had a disabling condition.

21% said they were homeless due to COVID.

37% were experiencing homelessness for the first time.

12% were homeless due to domestic violence.

30.19% of the homeless in Albuquerque self-reported as having a serious mental illness.

25.5% self-reported as substance abusers.

Note that a whopping 55.69% combined total of those surveyed self-reported as having a serious mental illness or were substance abusers.

The link to quoted statistics is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2402560/homeless-numbers-see-little-change.html

METROPOLITAN COURT’S OUTREACH COURT PROGRAM

A number of years ago, the Bernalillo Court Metropolitan Court established the specialty court known as “Drug Court” that dealt with those charged with misdemeanors and who suffered from drug addiction. A few years later, the Drug Court evolved into and was later named the “Metro Outreach Court.” The Outreach Court program is a collaborative effort between the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, the Office of the District Attorney, the Law Offices of the Public Defender, the Private Defense Bar, the Bernalillo County Attorney’s Office and community providers. The court follows the American Bar Association’s (ABA) seven guiding principles for Homeless Courts and is modeled after the San Diego Homeless Court.

METRO OUTREACH COURT EXPLAINED

The Metro Court Outreach Court has a web page that provides the following description of the court and how it operates:

“The Court model is based around local community service providers being the gateway for participants to enter into programs voluntarily. Outreach Court is a specialty court program aimed at a segment of the population that has limited means of complying with conditions of the court, and faces challenges in obtaining legal representation. As a result, misdemeanor charges are often ignored until the defendant is incarcerated.

Outreach Court is unique from all other specialty courts as it is designed to work with individuals already engaged with treatment providers and give them an opportunity to resolve outstanding misdemeanor cases and warrants. This is accomplished by collaborating with community providers that are already providing services to these individuals.

Outreach Court provides a progressive diversionary program, allowing alternative resolutions in lieu of custody, fines, and fees for most misdemeanor charges. Participants may engage in life skills activities, substance abuse group meetings, literacy classes, and training, or search for employment, counseling, and programming aimed at improving their situations under the guidance of their community provider. The court acknowledges these endeavors in order to satisfy the courts’ requirements.

The prospective participants are referred to court staff to determine eligibility by their community advocate. If approved for participation, court staff will notify all involved parties. The participant will work with their client advocate at their chosen program to design a plan to move towards self-sufficiency prior to appearing in court.

This initiative shows a participant’s willingness to seek justice and to reconcile their past by their continued efforts to reclaim their future. Providers will write letters of advocacy on behalf of the participant and their efforts in the program. This is symbolic of the relationship between the client and the program, and outlines their accomplishments, providing the court with insight into their efforts. The court will review the letter of advocacy and determine the graduation time of the participant to be held at a community provider’s location.

Outreach court enables homeless and precariously housed individuals who are actively engaged in the program to address their outstanding legal obligations, freeing them to reclaim their lives and return to the community as valued members.”

The current presiding Judge of the Metro Outreach Court is the honorable Maria Dominguez.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/outreach-court/

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION PRINCIPLES FOR HOMELESS COURT PROGRAMS

The Metro Outreach court follows the American Bar Association’s (ABA) seven guiding principles for Homeless Courts. Those 7 guidelines are as follow:

(1) Prosecutors, defense counsel, and the court should agree on which offenses may be resolved in the Homeless Court Program, and approve the criteria for individual participation recognizing that defendant participation in Homeless Court Programs shall be voluntary.

(2) Community-based service providers should establish criteria for individual participation in the Homeless Court Program and screen individuals pursuant to these criteria.

(3) The Homeless Court Program shall not require defendants to waive any protections afforded by due process of law.

(4) All Homeless Court Program participants shall have time for meaningful review of the cases and issues prior to disposition.

(5) The Homeless Court Program process and any disposition therein should recognize homeless participants’ voluntary efforts to improve their lives and move from the streets toward self-sufficiency, including participation in community-based treatment or services.

(6) Participation in community-based services shall replace sanctions such as fines, public work service and custody.

(7) Defendants who have completed appropriate treatment or services prior to appearing before the Homeless Court shall have minor charges dismissed, and, where appropriate, may have more serious misdemeanor charges before the court reduced or dismissed. Where charges are dismissed, public access to the record should be limited.

https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/homelessness_poverty/policy-resolutions/108a-homeless-court-principles.pdf

METRO “COMMUNITY VETERANS” COURT

In 2012, Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Albuquerque Veteran’s Medical Center to implement a Veterans Program.

VETERANS COURT EXPLAINED

The Veteran’s Court has a web page that provides the following description of the court and how it operates

“A team of criminal justice, treatment, and Veteran’s Affairs professionals were assembled that meet on a monthly basis to discuss Veteran defendants in Bernalillo County who were facing criminal charges or were struggling to meet their probation requirements.

The team soon learned first-hand how partnering with the VA and Veteran community resources was necessary in the effort to break down barriers and improve the identification and meeting the specialized needs of Veterans.

The Community Veterans Court began admitting participants in May of 2016. … [This] Court leads a multidisciplinary team consisting of two probation officers, an assistant district attorney, a public defender, and the Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator from the New Mexico Veterans Administration Health Care System. To be eligible, defendants must be veterans of military service from any era regardless of discharge status, in the National Guard, or in the Reserves. Additionally, they must have been charged with a misdemeanor in Bernalillo County and volunteer to join the Court. Treatment services for any substance use disorder or mental illness, such as PTSD, are obtained primarily from the Veterans Administration Hospital or local Veterans Clinic.

Participants meet with the judge for status hearings one or more times per month, undergo frequent and random drug and alcohol testing, meet with an assigned probation officer, engage satisfactorily in treatment, and satisfy other conditions of the Court. Each participant is paired with a mentor, who is also a veteran. The unique camaraderie of the veteran’s group is a vital component in each participant’s recovery.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/community-veterans-court-c-v-c/

VETERANS COURT ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

The Veterans Court has the following 6 eligibility criteria for participants

1. 18 years of age or over
2. Charged with a misdemeanor offense in Bernalillo County
3. Must have served in the U.S. Armed Forces or the corresponding reserve branches and/or members of the National Guard. Less than honorable discharges are reviewed on a case by case basis
4. Eligibility for CVC is not determined by eligibility for benefits from the Veterans Administration
5. An identified treatment need/issue substantially related to the offense
6. Consent of the prosecuting authority for pre-plea referral to the CVC or post plea if a presumptive commitment to prison/ jail exists.

Acceptance in the program is contingent upon meeting the full eligibility criteria of the program and approval of the CVC Presiding Judge.

You may be excluded from the CVC Program if you:

• Have a conviction or a guilty plea to any offense deemed violent or inappropriate for the CVC.

• Have been found guilty for any degree of murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, or an offense involving a weapon.

• Have been found guilty of a sexual offense.

• Have another pending criminal case in which you would be deemed ineligible.

• Are on probation/parole supervision for another case.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/services/language-access/eligibility-criteria/

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/community-veterans-court-c-v-c/

PILLARS OF VETERANS COURT

The following 3 pillars are required of each participant:

1. Honesty: Committing to your own recovery by being truthful in dealing with others and yourself. When you make a bad decision, take responsibility for it. The goal of this program is to assist you in your recovery, but this goal can only be met if you are honest with the team and yourself.

2. Integrity: Maintaining good character and abiding by a self-imposed moral code no matter where you are or who you are with. As the Judge likes to say, “doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

3. Accountability: Investing in your own mental, emotional and physical recovery by being mindful of your actions and impulses. Be accountable to the team, but more importantly, be accountable to yourself and the goals you have set for yourself in your recovery.”

DIVERSIONARY/FIRST OFFENDER DWI TRACK

“The six (6) month Diversionary and DWI First Offender Track … [is] screened by a program probation officer for eligibility or suitability. This screening can occur prior to the case being set for trial through a “pre- screening” process. The CVC screenings can be requested by your attorney and/or prosecuting attorney by contacting a CVC probation officer or staff.”

POST PLEA TRACK

The CVC does not become involved in the process of a plea agreement. All plea agreements [are] … made prior to entry into the program [and] … by [the defense] … attorney and the prosecuting attorney’s office. All pending criminal cases have to be resolved prior to admission into the CVC program. The post-plea track is expected to last a minimum of 12 months. There are four phases in the post-plea track and advancement from phase to phase is based on meeting clearly outlined criteria.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/outreach-court/

TRAFFIC COURT ARRAIGNMENT PROGRAM

Virtually all misdemeanor citations issued by and APD officer, except that of DWI, are officer prosecuted cases where police must appear for arraignments and where they must eventually prosecute the cases themselves before a judge. There is one major exception to this general rule of officer prosecuted cases and that is the Metropolitan Court Traffic Court Arraignment program where Assistant City Attorney’s are cross deputized by the Bernalillo County District Attorney to handle arraignments of traffic cases and negotiate plea and disposition agreements with the assistance of paralegals.

In 2006, the Metropolitan Traffic Court Arraignment Program was created by an agreement between the City Attorney, the Bernalillo County District Attorney and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. Despite the historical and designated role of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office as the chief law enforcement office for the prosecution of criminal cases, misdemeanor or felony cases, the City Attorney’s office was tasked with the program. Then Deputy City Attorney Pete Dinelli was given the assignment to create the program with the hiring of Assistant City Attorneys and paralegals and to manage and oversee the attorneys and Para Legals.

Assistant City Attorneys are cross deputized or appointed “special prosecutors” by the Bernalillo County District Attorney with the sole authority to negotiate plea and disposition agreements in traffic cases at the time of arraignments and approved by a Metro Judge, thereby negating the need for sworn APD personnel to appear at arraignments. The rationale for the city attorney’s office to be involved with traffic arraignments is to provide a major accommodation to the Metropolitan Court and to eliminate the need of sworn APD officers to go to court for arraignments on traffic offenses. The traffic court arraignment program reduces police overtime where APD sworn personnel are entitled to a minimum of 2 hours of overtime charged at time and a half under the union contract.

When a person is stopped and issued traffic citation, the citing sworn officer determines if the driver will contest the citations. If the driver wants to contest the citations issued, an arraignment date and time is immediately scheduled by the citing officer utilizing a Metro Court scheduling program developed by the court. The Metropolitan Traffic arraignment program streamlines the process, saves time and money and negates the appearance of police officers at arraignments.

NEW MEXICO STATUTORY LAW ON CIVIL COMMITMENTS FOR MENTALLY ILL AND DRUG ADDICTED

EDITOR’S NOTE: The state laws dealing with mental illness commitment hearings are highly technical for reading by a layperson but do provide a succinct outline of how the process works. For that reasons the statutes quoted herein have been heavily edited with deletions to assist the reader.

NM Statute §43-1-1 (2019)

It is Chapter 43 of the New Mexico Statutes that deals with mental illness commitment procedures and mental health evaluations of criminal defendants and to provide court ordered treatment.

NM Stat § 43-1-1 (2019) provides in part as follows:

“A. Whenever a district court finds it necessary to obtain an evaluation of the mental condition of a defendant in a criminal case, the court shall order an evaluation from a qualified professional available to the local facilities of the court or from a qualified professional at a local mental health center designated by the secretary of health. …

The Secretary of Health shall arrange for a qualified professional furnished by the state to visit the defendant in local facilities available to the court or shall designate suitable available facilities. If the secretary of health designates a local mental health center or a state facility for the defendant’s evaluation within forty-eight hours of service of the evaluation order, the secretary of health shall notify the court of such designation.

B. If the Secretary of Health elects to have the defendant retained at the district court’s local facilities, the qualified professional furnished by the state shall visit the local facilities not later than two weeks from the time of service of the court’s evaluation order upon the secretary of health … .

C. If the Secretary of Health elects to have the defendant transported to the facilities designated by the Secretary of Health for the purpose of evaluation, the evaluation shall be commenced as soon as possible after the admission of the defendant to the facility, but, in no event, shall the evaluation be commenced later than seventy-two hours after the admission.

The defendant, at the conclusion of the evaluation, shall be returned by the county sheriff to the local facilities of the court upon not less than three days’ notice. After the evaluation is completed, the qualified professional furnished by the state shall be available for deposition to declare his findings. The usual rules of evidence governing the use and admissibility of the deposition shall prevail.

D. Documents reasonably required by the secretary of health to show the medical and forensic history of the defendant shall be furnished by the court when required.

E. After an evaluation and upon reasonable notice, the district court may commit a dangerous defendant charged with a felony … or may dismiss the charges without prejudice and refer the defendant to the district attorney for possible initiation of proceedings under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code.

A defendant so committed under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code shall be treated as any other patient committed involuntarily.

Whenever the Secretary of Health determines that he does not have the ability to meet the medical needs of a defendant committed … the secretary or his designee shall serve upon the district court and the parties a written certification of the lack of ability to meet the medical needs of the defendant.
The court shall set a hearing upon the certification within ten days of its filing and shall, after the hearing, make a determination regarding disposition of the criminal case.

When deemed by the Secretary of Health to be medically appropriate, a dangerous defendant committed pursuant … may be returned by the county sheriff to the custody of the court upon not less than three days’ notice. The secretary shall provide written notification to the court and parties within three days of the defendant’s discharge.

F. … .”

NM STATUTE § 43-1-11 (2020)

In 2020, the New Mexico Legislature enacted 43-1-11 providing for and outlining a process for the civil commitment of adults for mental health evaluations and to provide medical help.

NM Stat § 43-1-11 (2020) provides in part as follows:

“A. Every adult client involuntarily admitted to an evaluation facility … has the right to a hearing within seven days of admission unless waived after consultation with counsel.

If a physician or evaluation facility decides to seek commitment of the client for evaluation and treatment, a petition shall be filed with the court within 5 days of admission requesting the commitment.

The petition shall include a description of the specific behavior or symptoms of the client that evidence a likelihood of serious harm to the client or others and shall include an initial screening report by the evaluating physician individually or with the assistance of a mental health professional or, if a physician is not available, by a mental health professional acceptable to the court.

The petition shall list the prospective witnesses for commitment and a summary of the matters to which they will testify. … .

B. At the hearing, the client shall be represented by counsel and shall have the right to present evidence on the client’s behalf, including testimony by an independent mental health professional of the client’s own choosing, to cross-examine witnesses and to be present at the hearing.

… .

C. A court-appointed guardian for an adult involved in an involuntary commitment proceeding shall have automatic standing [or right] to appear at all stages of the proceeding … .

D. The court shall include in its findings the guardian’s opinion regarding the need for involuntary treatment … .

E. Upon completion of the hearing, the court may order a commitment for evaluation and treatment not to exceed thirty days if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

(1) as a result of a mental disorder, the client presents a likelihood of serious harm to the client’s own self or others;

(2) the client needs and is likely to benefit from the proposed treatment; and

(3) the proposed commitment is consistent with the treatment needs of the client and with the least drastic means principle.

F. Once the court has made the findings set forth … , the court shall hear further evidence as to whether the client is capable of informed consent. If the court determines that the client is incapable of informed consent, the court shall appoint for the client a treatment guardian … .

G. An interested person who reasonably believes that an adult is suffering from a mental disorder and presents a likelihood of serious harm to the adult’s own self or others, but does not require emergency care, may request the district attorney to investigate and determine whether reasonable grounds exist to commit the adult for a thirty-day period of evaluation and treatment.

The applicant may present to the district attorney any medical reports or other evidence immediately available to the applicant, but shall not be required to obtain a medical report or other particular evidence in order to make a petition.

The district attorney shall act on the petition within seventy-two hours. If the district attorney determines that reasonable grounds exist to commit the adult, the district attorney may petition the court for a hearing.

The court may issue a summons to the proposed client to appear at the time designated for a hearing, which shall be not less than five days from the date the petition is served.

If the proposed client is summoned and fails to appear at the proposed time and upon a finding of the court that the proposed client has failed to appear, or appears without having been evaluated, the court may order the proposed client to be detained for evaluation … .

H. … .”

https://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2020/chapter-43/article-1/section-43-1-11/#:~:text=An%20interested%20person%20who%20reasonably,grounds%20exist%20to%20commit%2

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

By all accounts and based upon lengthy discussion with both the presiding Judges of the “Metro Court Outreach Court” and the “Metro Community Veterans Court”, both specialty courts can be considered highly successful.

APD is doing its job with resources it has when it comes to the homeless. As noted since the beginning of 2022 there have been issued 2,308 citations to the homeless and it has issued 614 trespassing notices with 3 trespassing stops revealing outstanding warrants. However, much more can be done with the coordination of resources and placing an emphasis on dealing with the mentally ill and the drug addicted. The Metro Court should establish an identical procedure that it has with the Metro Traffic Arraignment Program that when the officer issues the citation to the homeless person, a Notice of a a date and hearig is also provided in the citation itself.

A glaring reality is much more must be done with the initiation of civil commitment hearings to deal with the mentally ill and the drug addicted who are homeless and to ensure that they get the medical treatment and counselling services they need.

Both the City Attorney and the Bernalillo County District Attorney can and should dedicate resources in the form of attorneys that will assume the filing of civil mental health commitment pleadings for such hearings as prescribed by law. The New Mexico Public Defender should also be called upon by the Court to provide a defense where and when needed.

APD needs and should assume the responsivity to investigate and identify those homeless and drug addicted who are criminal offense repeat offenders, both misdemeanor and felony, and who pose a danger to themselves and others. Constitutional policing practices must be adhered to avoid violations of civil rights.

A program of cross deputization of City Attorney’s by the Bernalillo County District Attorney to allow them to file civil mental health commitment petitions in State District Court in misdemeanor and felony cases can be created. This would be similar to what is done with the Metro Traffic Court arraignment program.

CREATE “OUTREACH, VETERANS AND HOMELESS COURT”

What can and should be created is one single specialty court designated as the “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless Court” or OVH Court. The Criminal Division of the State District Court should assign a District Court Judge do deal exclusively with mental health commitment hearings with the help of Metro Judges and the consolidation and the assistance of “Metro Court Outreach Court” and the “Metro Community Veterans” court under one court that is established in both Metro Court and State District Court using both court’s resources including courtrooms.

OPEN HOMELESS BEHAVIORAL HEALTH HOSPITAL AND DRUG REHABILITATION TREATMENT CENTER

The city for its part should seek to dedicate the massive 572,000 square-foot Gibson Medical complex as a “Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center” and abandon its efforts to create an overnight homeless shelter known as the Gateway Shelter. The highest and best use for the Gibson Medical Center facility is a hospital or medical facility, the purpose for which it was originally built for and for which it is already zoned. This will allow the facility to be used for civil commitments by the “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless Court” to deal with the homeless crisis.

The Gibson Medical facility needs to be staffed with full time physicians, counselors, social workers and mental health experts to provide the needed care to the homeless who are suffering from addiction or mental illness. Services and medical and mental health care at the center should be offered to the homeless with a “self-commitment” component for a period of time that will guarantee access to the necessary medical and mental health services.

The facility is large enough where it can be remodeled to ensure safety and accommodate both services to the mentally ill and drug addicted homeless and separate them from other homeless who do not suffer from mental illness and drug addiction but who go to the facility for other services provided to the homeless.

Efforts should be made by the city to seek emergency funding from Bernalillo County Commission and the behavioral health tax with a “Memorandum Of Understanding” for the county to staff the facility while the city operates, maintains it, remodels it and provides security.

The city has a moral obligation to help the homeless who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction.
A Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital and Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center at the Gibson Medical Center would fill that void and provide a facility that is absolutely necessary to provide medical health care to the homeless.

This entry was posted in Opinions by . Bookmark the permalink.

About

Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.