The first step to getting mental health services at Socorro Mental Health is a behavioral health assessment. The assessment is required by any of the potential funding sources, whether someone is using Medicaid, Medicare or most insurance companies.

The assessment gives providers a sense of what issues the person might be dealing with, helps determine the medical necessity for treatment and allows insurance to cover the services. The behavioral health assessment determines how significant someone’s symptoms are and what impairments they have because of their illness. Sometimes after the assessment, patients are referred to both a therapist and a community support worker.

Socorro Community Health Center of Presbyterian Medical Services.
PMS courtesy photo

Community support workers are like a behavioral health coach, who helps someone manage symptoms and use effective coping strategies. If the person needs housing, or lacks income, they can help them get general assistance. They also encourage patients to show up for other medical appointments.

A person in crisis has to be seen within an hour. If someone comes in having a mental health crisis, then they don’t need the behavioral health assessment before they speak with a therapist. Some people are able to manage a crisis with a therapist visit, while others may need hospitalization.

“It’s really more to manage the risk and make sure that they’re able to keep themselves safe, people in their environment are safe and help them see what they need in order to mitigate the crisis,” said Deborah Bankson, clinical services administrator for Presbyterian Medical Services sites in Socorro and Catron counties.

Many of prescribing psychologist John Courtney’s patients reach him through referrals from their primary care doctor.  For psychiatric services, patients can see the psychologist without the assessment and without having therapy services. However, typically Courtney prescribes therapy in addition to medication because therapy is a good route for helping patients address underlying issues.

The Socorro Community Health Center, where Courtney is placed, is meant to be a model of integrated care, where psychiatry and primary care operate together.

Socorro Mental Health also offers psychosocial rehab services, which are classes with evidence-based curriculums on topics like managing stress, mindfulness and trauma. Mental illness often isolates people and group interventions help people realize they’re not alone with their struggles, said Bankson.

They also offer outpatient services for substance use disorders.

“You can see people coming into this place at literally their last straw and to be able to, in a few months, begin to feel remarkably better. What we do works, for sure. We really are a safety net,” said Courtney.

Cathy Cook, Editor, El Defensor Chieftain