Socorro Mental Health now part of Presbyterian Medical Services

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Socorro Mental Health, a non-profit community mental health center providing services to the residents of Socorro County for 23 years, was acquired on March 1 by Presbyterian Medical Services, a statewide non-profit rural health care network.

PMS focusses on out-patient services and has clinics throughout New Mexico, said CEO Steven Hansen. It is not connected with Presbyterian Health Care Services or hospitals. Even though it started out in 1901 as a Presbyterian Church medical mission in the Southwest, that association was severed about a decade ago.

Joining with a larger organization ensures mental health care for people in Socorro will continue at its present level or even expand, said SMH Board treasurer Karen Schlue.

"This is why we entered into this agreement, so that behavioral health services will continue uninterrupted in the Socorro community, and we're even hoping for a broadening of services," she said. "We knew there were some services we couldn't provide. It was becoming difficult, if not impossible, for a small stand-alone agency to operate. In the current health care environment, it takes an increasing number of administrative personnel to make sure that regulations are followed. It's a matter of scale — a large corporation can take care of the administrative duties for the smaller agencies under its umbrella."

Hansen agreed, saying SMH approached PMS, "indicating due to the increased regulation and administrative burdens, making ends meet had become more and more challenging, very difficult for the long-term stability of the organization."

Most of the familiar faces at the program will remain.

"We're able to retain the vast majority of the staff," Hansen said. "Obviously, when you join a small non-profit with a large non-profit, there will be duplication. For all the administrative services, we saved some money utilizing one organization versus two."

The SMH site administrator will be Tracie Sanchez, who has been with SMH for over eighteen years, and the clinical services administrator will be Deborah Bankson, who has also worked with the program for several years.

Socorro Mental Health has been functioning as a sub-contrator for PMS since 2011 as well as working with PMS patients referred from their clinic on Highway 60, Hansen said.

The current local SMH board will continue to meet until the transition is complete, probably for a few more months.

Secondhand Rose, the thrift store on California Street associated with SMH, will continue to operate with the same staff. Donations will still qualify for tax exemptions, Hansen said.