By Mary McPhail Gray
With the Governor’s recently announced closing of all New Mexico schools until the end of the school year, families in Taos will be challenged to cover care and supervision for their children. The board and staff at Taos Behavioral Health feel strongly that we need to respond to these needs. With the state closing of schools, we do not have access to any space from the school district. Therefore, we have developed a plan to work on site together with all our clients so that services can still be provided.
Outpatient therapy services will continue via telemed services and clients should keep their usual appointments. To protect our clients’ health, we have the guidance from the state Department of Health that establishes a protocol for keeping our space free of contamination. Each time a staff member or client enters our space, hand washing will be required. Rooms and equipment will be sanitized after each client session and at the end of a youth group. We have sanitizing equipment available to make certain this is done safely.
We will question clients about their travel or exposure to other family members who may have been in a high incident area of the virus and advise them to self-isolate. As of Saturday, March 28 we had 208 cases of the virus reported in the state—with 8 in Taos. Regardless, we must be vigorous and relentless to protect our clients and staff and prevent the spread of the virus.
Taos school teachers had been anticipating such a school closure and have worked to provide kits of lessons and study guidance for their students. TBH will utilize these in our programing for youth clients. We will provide a full day of programing for our Familia Y Mundo clients utilizing our own space and the creativity of all staff. Study support will be available, and the days will include as much fresh air outside activities as realistic. Our offices are within walking distance of ECHO Park and we will use rental vans for trips to further sites. Obviously, the students will learn a great deal about disease spread and how to keep themselves safe.
For families with youth seen individually at school sites, TBH staff have been informing them of the new temporary location for these services. The TBH Family Center has its own rooms and youth and parent clients will be seen there. For many of these families patching together supervision and care for the rest of the day will be difficult.
The students in Taos all receive free lunch and with no school will mean some nutritional gaps for many students. The TBH staff have been delivering school lunch to those families who cannot pick it up. TBH will purchase food for those who cannot obtain it. Donations of individual meal packets would be gratefully accepted.
We believe we can provide important information to all our clients about how to keep themselves well and deal realistically with the fears and stress of this pandemic. It will mean caring for each other in wise and prudent ways. We know that with more people staying at home, phone lines may be slower and those without fiber optic service may experience frustratingly slow interaction. This will take patience and skill from us all. Working aggressively, we hope that New Mexico will be able to handle this health emergency and experience fewer cases than other states that are already deeply impacted. Your cooperation and comments are welcome as we work on this together.
TBH has the largest credentialed and licensed behavioral health staff in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at 105 Bertha St. in Taos, or 5775-758-4297 and www.taosbehavioralhealth.org
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org