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New services now underway at Gallup NCI

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Funds secured for next five years

The Na Nihzhoozhi Center Inc. is one month into expanding its detoxification services at its headquarters on 2413 Boyd Ave., after receiving new funding.

In September, Congress appropriated $2 million in a specially designated grant for two towns with a high alcohol death rate.

“It started in February 2016, when Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., was here and brought with him the IHS director on a site visit,” Executive Director Dr. Kevin Foley said.  “He asked the IHS director to assist us on funding.”

Of the $2 million total appropriation, $1.5 million is designated specifically for Gallup, according to a U.S. Senate appropriation committee report addressing alcohol-related deaths.

The report reads, in part, “…to continue its assistance toward addressing this issue in the city of Gallup, New Mexico.”

White Clay, Neb., is the other town mentioned in the congressional appropriation report that received $500,000.

The congressional delegation in New Mexico, both Senators Udall and Martin Heinrich, D-NM, were joined by Congressman Ben Lujan, D-N.M., in announcing the grant.

“Senator Tom Udall, who is on the appropriations committee, was instrumental in securing funding for Gallup,” said Ned Adriance, Udall’s press secretary.

Udall is the minority leader on the Senate appropriations committee.

The congressional appropriation is made to the Indian Health Service.  The IHS headquarters in Rockville, Md., announced the grant opportunity on Sept. 27, in a cooperative agreement through a special designation known as Preventing Alcohol-Related Deaths or PARD for short.

The Gallup City Council approved the grant Oct. 10.

“This does not replace funding we already receive from the Gallup liquor excise tax and money from the state,” Foley said.

“This expands our service,” he said.  “We will expand the shelter program, increase our high risk through more case managers.  We will have new cooks, serve hot meals, and take individuals to job interviews and medical appointments.”

Less the recent cash injection, NCI receives $835,000 from the city through excise taxes.  They receive an additional $19,000 a month for their behavioral health investment zone program. The behavioral health investment zone money is due to end in June 2018, the end of the fiscal year.

The congressional appropriation will be made annually until the year 2022.

The belief with additional funding that the number of alcohol related deaths in Gallup will be reduced.

“A lot of it is out of our control,” Foley said.  “When they are brought to our center that’s when we begin our service,” he said of individuals who arrive at the center for detoxification services.

Most unattended alcohol related deaths occur to victims who suffer from exposure of low temperature weather. Other deaths occur from alcohol poisoning due to excessive alcohol use at once.

The Gallup Police Department uses Community Service Aid patrols to assist police in finding individuals in intoxicated conditions and transporting them to NCI.  In colder weather patrols are more frequent.

“We use open field patrols,” Gallup Police Dept. Capt. Marinda Spencer said.  “A community service aid will patrol arroyos, fields, and camps where people tend to gather.”

It’s especially crucial during the cold, winter months, where in seasons past about a dozen or so people have been found dead from exposure. And it’s usually because they fall asleep or pass out and succumb to the elements while intoxicated.

Chief of Police Phillip Hart authorized the purchase of an off-road vehicle, and added specialized equipment to conduct searches in hard to reach places.

“We look at maps where exposures have happened,” Spencer said.  “They (CSAs) cover as much ground as they can.  Patrols during the Fall and Winter months begin at 7 pm and continue until 3 am.

“We did not receive one in October,” Spencer said referring to alcohol related deaths as the new grant period began.

“We did have a female casualty last week on East Highway 66 that we initially thought was an exposure,” Spencer said.  “The body was reported on side of the road. We determined it was a hit and run.”

By Deswood Tome
Sun Correspondent