Gov. MLG To Call Special Session On July 18; Focus To Be Public Safety; Special Session Should Include Creating State Wide Mental Health Court For Civil Mental Health Commitments To Assist Mentally ILL,  Drug Addicted And Unhoused

On April 17, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will call state legislators into a Special Session starting July 18.  The session will focus on addressing public safety proposals. The governor said she expects the session to wrap up within several days. She decided to convene the session to allow lawmakers to finish what they started during the regular 30-day session.  The upcoming special legislative session will be the fifth special session the governor has called while in office.

According to a news release, the session will focus on public safety. The Governor’s news release says in part:

“While we made some progress toward a safer New Mexico during the 30-day day session, we agree that we must do more. The special session in July will enable us to deliver additional statutory changes that reduce the danger and risk New Mexico communities face every day. The best proposals for making our state safer will be under consideration, and I welcome input from my colleagues in the legislature.”

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said  the special session will give lawmakers more time to work through details on complex public safety bills. Wirth said this in a press release:

“The Governor’s announced date for a special session gives us enough time to find consensus public safety legislation that can pass both chambers. Discussions between the Governor and legislative leadership to date have focused on bills from the recent 30-day session that required more work due to their legal complexity, namely: criminal competency, felon in possession of a firearm and panhandling. We have agreed additional gun safety and pre-trial detention bills will wait for the sixty-day session in January. In the next several months, we will also focus on finding ways to expand the critical safety net of mental health and treatment services that are vital to the success of the legislation that will be considered.”

Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the special session should focus on the “absence of resources to enforce existing law. … The fundamental problem with crime in Albuquerque is not a lack of laws. It’s lack of accountability and enforcement of those laws.”  Cervantes said he hoped the governor would be receptive to initiatives from the Legislature before the special session “and that my colleagues will step up to consider some changes in law.  It’s hard to imagine that you can accomplish in a matter of a couple of days the work that it’s going to take to restore public trust in public safety in Albuquerque and elsewhere.”

The links to quoted news sources relied upon are here:


In a March 26 interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican, Governor Lujan Grisham said there are 4 measures she might include in a Special Session:

The first bill would send criminal defendants who are found incompetent to stand trial to a mental health or behavioral health treatment program. Supporters, like Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, say there are far too many suspects who are arrested, deemed incompetent to stand trial, and then released back on the streets only to commit more crimes. It’s one version of the so-called “revolving door” that the governor clearly wants to close. It appears that bill,  which did not make it very far in the previous legislative session, is at the top of the special session agenda.

The second bill would be “sort of a civil counterpart to [to the first]”  Lujan Grisham said. It would offer mental or behavioral health programs to people with “a significant mental health issue and a chemical dependency” when family members are unable to have them involuntarily held in an inpatient facility. The bill would allow for treatment for at least 90 days according to the Governor. The governor said this:

“Judges want this tool. … They can meaningfully use it.”

The third measure would restrict panhandling and in particular when people are camping out on medians or standing near busy intersections. The governor said she has seen people lying down in roadways and chasing vehicles, including hers. The Governor said this:

“This has to end because someone on the streets is going to get killed. A child is going to get killed. A motorist is going to get killed or kill someone.”

According to the Governor, the 3 bills together would “allow us then to focus on the remaining supports and remedies — housing, income, the ability to provide meaningful behavioral health for people who couldn’t get access.”

The fourth bill would increase penalties for some crimes, such as being a felon in possession of a firearm.


Ever since the 2024 legislative session ended on February 16, Governor Lujan Grisham has more than once hinted at calling a Special Session.  Now that it’s official, the Special Session called by the Governor for public safety should include the statewide expansion of the existing Second Judicial District Mental Health Court to include mental health commitment hearings by district attorneys and public defenders.  There is a critical need for a civil mental health and drug commitment court for the homeless suffering from mental illness and/or drug addiction and who pose a threat to themselves, their family or to the general public. Such courts do in fact exist in the other parts of the country and have proven to be highly successful.

The existing Second Judicial District Mental Health Court program is 100% voluntary, and is an alternative to the standard judicial process and that should be changed.  It should be made mandatory to function as outreach and treatment court for the drug addicted and the mentally ill in a hospital or counseling setting and not involving jail incarceration.


Warehousing the mentally ill or drug addicted in jails for crimes committed is not the answer and does not address treatment and the court’s must be looked to as part of the solution.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature need to proceed with the Special Session, but one primary emphasis should be the creation of a new 14th Judicial District Court with 3 separate regional divisions one located in Albuquerque, one in Las Cruces and one in Las Vegas, New Mexico with the creation of at least 3 District Court Judge positions with 6 year terms appointed by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Appointment by the Supreme Court would ensure rapid filling of the new positions and take the elective partisan politics out of the process.  The Administrative Offices of the Courts must play  a pivotal role in setting up the new court process, including locating the new Mental Health Treatment Court in existing court houses in all 3 locations.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the legislature should seek to designate the 14th Judicial District Court a specialty “Mental Health Treatment Court” functioning as outreach and treatment court for the drug addicted and the mentally ill in a hospital or counseling setting and not involving jail incarceration.  The existing Second Judicial District Mental Health Court would be consolidated into the Albuquerque District Mental Health Treatment Court.

There is an even bigger need for the construction and staffing of a mental health facilities or hospitals to provide the services needed to the mentally ill or drug addicted. As it stands now, there exists less than adequate facilities where patients can be referred to for civil mental health commitments and treatment. There is glaring need for a behavioral health hospital and drug rehabilitation treatment facility.  The Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Center and the Las Vegas Mental Health hospital could be expanded to accommodate for court referrals and a new behavioral health facility could be constructed in Las Cruces to handle mental health commitment and treatment.

New Mexico is currently experiencing historical surplus revenues and this past legislative session the legislature had an astonishing $3.6 Billion in surplus revenue. Now is the time to create a statewide Mental Health Court and dedicate funding for the construction of behavioral health hospital and drug rehabilitation treatment facilities the courts can rely upon for referrals.

Creation of a new court system must include funding for District Attorneys and Public Defenders with dedicated personnel resources for the filing and defending of civil mental health commitments as prescribed by law.

A statewide mental health court with mandatory civil commitments will get treatment to those who need it the most, help get the unhoused off the streets and help families with loved ones who resist any mental health treatment.

The link to a related blog article is here:

ABQ Journal Dinelli Guest Opinion Column: “Lawmakers should set up statewide mental health court”; Related Column: Laws, Statistics, and Resources Needed To Create 14th Judicial District Court For Mental Health Commitment Court

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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.