“I tell all our new clients that they do not need to trust me just because I am the agency director. I have to earn their trust just as they have to earn mine,” says Walter Vigil, director of the Human Resource Development Agency in Taos. “I promise to be consistent and always honest with them. I expect them to follow their plan and do what they need to do to prove that they are serious about recovery.”
Vigil has been the director of HRDA since 1989 and has been in Taos providing services related to community policing for 36 years. At first a county employee initiating the first Community Corrections program in New Mexico, he began HRDA after 5 years when he realized a nonprofit agency was a more realistic model to implement services for the youth and young adult clients he was seeing. HRDA holds contracts with the New Mexico Office of Corrections—dealing with clients under their jurisdiction. They have offices also in Raton and Espanola.
On Monday, January 27th. HRDA and TBH implemented a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to serve juveniles referred by the Juvenile Probation Office, or the court system. These clients have all been referred due to drug use or trafficking. Part of the HRDA commitment is to support the development of social/emotional skills of juveniles in their service. Vigil declares that this MOA will enable them to provide services that are currently not adequate in their offices.
Clinician Carol Jackson from TBH will be the counselor on site for this MOA. Jackson is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) with fifteen years of experience working with children, youth, families and adults from underserved populations. Jackson has worked in inpatient and outpatient settings, including Butterfly Healing Center with Native American Children and their families, in the Taos Juvenile Detention Facility and in the Penitentiary of New Mexico. In addition, she has special expertise in Equine therapy.
At the HRDA offices, Jackson will provide individual counseling on Wednesdays and a Women’s Therapy Group on Fridays. The power of the group for this population can be profound—sharing stories—comparing goals—challenging each other. Vigil comments that since a number of their clients are court ordered to receive counseling—they come to the group or individual setting with anger and denial. Unless the therapist can establish a trusting relationship, little change can occur. The richness of Jackson’s experience will help with this challenge. The basic goal is to learn new decision skills and gain the strength to not relapse.
Vigil believes that the key variable in helping the clients recover and take new paths is whether they have a positive support system—especially friends and family. For many clients, education and vocation training is critical to recovery. The high cost of living and their lack of job skills handicaps this recovery. Vigil comments that clients who get jobs are most often working in fast food or other businesses at minimum wage. One exception is in Raton where two companies involved in iron work have provided some tough, but higher wage jobs. UNM-Taos has been particularly sensitive to the needs of this population and Vigil is hopeful that more clients can access their training models.
These youth can change—with support and become contributing members of their community. Vigil has seen a revolving door for some—and others who have done very well. This agency partnership reflects the commitment that Taos agencies have made to work together—to avoid duplication—to complement each other’s services. We are investing in the future of our community together.
TBH has the largest staff of credentialed and licensed Behavioral Health staff in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at 575-758-4297, 105 Bertha St. in Taos or www/taosbehavioralhealth.org. HRDA can be reached at 575-758-5500.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org