What if 100 percent of Socorro County residents had access to 10 services needed to survive and thrive?

Surviving services such as food security, housing, medical care, behavioral health care and transportation? And what if everyone had access to thriving services such as early childhood education, parent supports, community schools, youth mentoring and job training?

What if — in addition to these services being available at campuses through the community schools model — there was a one-stop location in Socorro that either provided these resources or could direct community members to the right place? Providing access to all these services for Socorro County residents is the goal of the 100% New Mexico-Socorro initiative.

100% New Mexico is an initiative started by the Anna, Age Eight Institute, a state-funded organization whose mission is to end childhood trauma by ensuring that children and families have access to the services they need to survive and thrive. It is based at New Mexico State University and operates in 14 New Mexico counties, including Socorro.

It does this by coordinating community members, organizations, businesses and government entities to work together to identify and close gaps in the services needed for families to survive and thrive.

Socorro was one of the early counties to adopt the 100% New Mexico initiative in 2019. During that fall, community organizers conducted a survey across Socorro County to assess how many people needed access to the 10 surviving and thriving services and to identify barriers to access.

Just over 500 people participated in the survey, which provided valuable information for community leaders. For example, 88 percent of those surveyed needed medical care, but 30 percent of those reported difficulty accessing medical care because of long wait lists, high costs, inability to find a provider or scheduling difficulties.

Similarly, about a third of the participants reported needing behavioral health care, and nearly 40 percent of those reported difficulties, primarily due to inability to find a quality provider and long wait lists. These are pre-pandemic numbers, and it’s likely these have changed significantly.

The 100% Socorro initiative is co-led by Socorro County Options, Prevention and Education (SCOPE) and New Mexico Tech’s STORM FORCE (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics OutReach and Mentoring Fueling Opportunity through Relationships, Community and Education).  As the county health council, SCOPE is already a community leader in coordinating resources for many of the surviving services, while STORM FORCE was created to organize community efforts related to all facets of education, including mentoring and job training.

A key partner is the Socorro Consolidated School District (SCSD), which works closely with the 100% Socorro leadership to leverage community resources to support students. Socorro High School already has many components of a community school, including an on-site medical clinic, child care for students and staff, and the Michigan Avenue Marketplace which provides food, clothing and personal supplies free to students.

Behavioral health support has been amplified in the district through funding provided by Project AWARE and Social Emotional Learning grants from the state Public Education Department. Literacy mentors, near-peer tutoring and AVID mentoring have provided significant opportunities to offer youth mentoring in the school district.

In addition, SCSD recently applied for a community schools planning grant that would provide support to coordinate school-based surviving and thriving services across the district. It would also provide resources to re-administer the 100% survey to identify the needs and gaps of services post-COVID.

Although there is a long way to go toward creating sustainable infrastructure to ensuring 100 percent of Socorro County residents have access to the 10 services needed to survive and thrive, there is a coordinated effort to identify resources and creative solutions toward this goal.

Sharon Sessions, Guest Columnist