A partnership to help youth gain the strength not to relapse

By Mary McPhail Gray
Posted 2/6/20

'I tell all our new clients that they do not need to trust me just because I am the agency director. I have to earn their trust just as they have to earn mine," says Walter Vigil, director of the Human Resource Development Agency in Taos.

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A partnership to help youth gain the strength not to relapse

Posted

'I tell all our new clients that they do not need to trust me just because I am the agency director. I have to earn their trust just as they have to earn mine," says Walter Vigil, director of the Human Resource Development Agency in Taos. "I promise to be consistent and always honest with them. I expect them to follow their plan and do what they need to do to prove that they are serious about recovery."

Vigil has been the director of HRDA since 1989 and has been in Taos providing services related to community policing for 36 years. Vigil was first a county employee initiating the first Community Corrections program in New Mexico, before he began HRDA after he realized a nonprofit agency was a more realistic model to implement services for the youth and young adult clients he was seeing. HRDA holds contracts with the New Mexico Office of Corrections, dealing with clients under their jurisdiction. They have offices also in Ratón and Española.

On Jan. 27 HRDA and Taos Behavioral Health implemented a Memorandum of Agreement to serve juveniles referred by the Juvenile Probation Office or the court system. These clients have all been referred due to drug use or trafficking. Part of the HRDA commitment is to support the development of the social and emotional skills of juveniles in their service. Vigil declares that this agreement will enable them to provide services that are currently not adequate in their offices.

Clinician Carol Jackson from TBH will be the counselor on-site for the agreement. Jackson is a licensed professional clinical counselor with 15 years of experience working with children, youth, families and adults from underserved populations. Jackson has worked in inpatient and outpatient settings, including Butterfly Healing Center with Native American Children and their families, the Taos Juvenile Detention Facility and the Penitentiary of New Mexico. In addition, she has special expertise in equine therapy.

At the HRDA offices, Jackson will provide individual counseling on Wednesdays and a Women's Therapy Group on Fridays. The power of the group for this population can be profound - sharing stories, comparing goals and challenging each other. Vigil comments that since a number of their clients are court ordered to receive counseling, they come to the group or individual setting with anger and denial. Unless the therapist can establish a trusting relationship, little change can occur. The richness of Jackson's experience will help with this challenge. The basic goal is to learn new decision skills and gain the strength not to relapse.

Vigil believes that the key variable in helping the clients recover and take new paths is whether they have a positive support system, especially friends and family. For many clients, education and vocation training is critical to recovery. The high cost of living and their lack of job skills handicap this recovery. Vigil said that clients who get jobs are most often working in fast food or other businesses at minimum wage.

One exception is in Ratón where two companies involved in iron work have provided some tough, but higher wage jobs. University of New Mexico-Taos has been particularly sensitive to the needs of this population and Vigil is hopeful that more clients can access their training models.

These youth can change with support and become contributing members of their community. Vigil has seen a revolving door for some and others who have done very well. This agency partnership reflects the commitment that Taos agencies have made to work together, to avoid duplication and to complement each other's services. We are investing in the future of our community together.

TBH can be reached at (575) 758-4297, 105 Bertha Street in Taos or at taosbehavioralhealth.org. HRDA can be reached at (575) 758-5500.

Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at (575) 779-3126 of mcphailconsulting@gmail.com.

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