By Mary McPhail Gray
Taos is a unique complex community where human strengths and human needs exist at the same time as dramatic challenges to the behavioral health system. Whether looking at poverty, hunger, violence or despair in many forms, Taoseños across their life span need compassionate culturally informed services that support paths to greater life success. Many presenting challenges are generational patterns and system failures, yet change has to start with individuals reaching out to those in need.
At NonviolenceWorks, our twenty staff members are a deeply compassionate skilled group of professionals. Thirteen of our staff were born and raised in Taos. An additional four of our clinicians have lived here from 10 to 25 years. All clinicians have Master’s degrees. They understand, they care; they are committed to making a difference.
Over our eleven years of service to the Taos community, we have observed community needs and been responsive to issues. Early work on mentoring came from a recognition of the need for one-on-one guidance and caring for the youth of Taos—first boys and then also girls. Our Gang Resistance is Powerful program (GRIP) was initiated seven years ago in response to the school system’s desire to reduce gang membership. Originally in the elementary schools, it has now been expanded to middle school and some high school settings. In the current school year—we are serving 384 students.
Five years ago, the NVW staff noted an important need for an afterschool therapeutic program. Individual and group counseling and support to practice social and emotional skills in a safe environment is provided in our Familia Y Mundo Program—after school and in the summer. Now housed through a cooperative relationship in Ranchos Elementary School, this program has served 120 youth in the past calendar year.
Students who need individual counseling at the school site are served by NVW clinicians who responded to the concerns raised by the Taos Municipal School District when counseling funds were severely cut to the district. Two hundred twenty five youth are served in this way.
A special note should be made of our response to the tragedy of suicide among Taos youth. An NVW clinician has quietly volunteered to work with community members to provide a safe place for youth to process fears and grief. Our staff at the middle school and high school has processed suicidal impulses with fifteen youth since the start of this school year. These are usually crisis situations where—in spite of no funding—we respond to the needs. NVW then sponsored three special trainings in suicide prevention for Taos clinicians and other community members. Another training is planned for March of this year.
NVW has an active Supervised Visitation Program for parents who have restricted visiting rights to their children. We serve at least twenty families a year in this program.
Men and women who have experienced and/or engaged in domestic violence are served in our Nonviolence Awareness Classes (NAC)—with strong supportive skill building curriculum. Twenty-three men and eight women have been served this year. An additional two hundred sixty adults are seen by the clinical staff in a variety of therapeutic models— including couples therapy and individual counseling.
Serving over one thousand individuals and twenty families is a tremendous challenge to the NVW staff. They serve because of their commitment, they serve because they believe in Taos—and as a staff they share skills and concerns to enhance their success.
We depend on strong relationships with other agencies and the schools in order to serve those in greatest need. In addition, we are deeply grateful to individual and business donors who step forward to support these services. Just recently Cid’s market provided Familia y Mundo a gift certificate to purchase food for our winter break program. Smith’s has also provided ongoing consistent support. To them all—we say thank you and let’s continue to invest in the life of Taos as we move into 2017.
NVW has the largest staff of behavioral health counselors and clinicians in northern New Mexico. Contact us at 575-758-4207 or www.nonviolenceworks.us.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or email.