Taos is a unique and complex community where human strengths and human needs exist at the same time as dramatic challenges to the behavioral health system. Whether looking at poverty, hunger, violence or despair in many forms, Taoseños across their lifespan need compassionate, culturally informed services that support paths to greater life success. Many presenting challenges are generational patterns and system failures, yet change has to start with individuals reaching out to those in need.
At NonviolenceWorks (NVW), our 20 staff members are a deeply compassionate and skilled group of professionals. Thirteen of our staff members were born and raised in Taos. Four of our clinicians have lived here from 10 to 25 years. All clinicians have advanced degrees. They understand, they care, they are committed to making a difference.
Over our 11 years of service to the Taos community, we have observed community needs and been responsive to issues. Early work on mentoring came from a recognition of the need for one-on-one guidance and caring for the youth of Taos. Our Gang Resistance is Powerful (GRIP) program was initiated seven years ago in response to the school system’s desire to reduce gang membership. Originally in the elementary schools, it has now been expanded to middle school and some high school settings. It now serves 384 students.
Five years ago, NVW staff noted an important need for an after-school therapeutic program. Individual and group counseling and support to practice social and emotional skills in a safe environment is provided in our Familia y Mundo program — after school and during the summer. Now housed through a cooperative relationship with Ranchos Elementary School, the program has served 120 youth in the past calendar year.
Students who need individual counseling at the school site are served by NVW clinicians who responded to the concerns raised by Taos Municipal Schools when counseling funds were severely cut to the district. About 225 youth are served in this way.
A special note should be made of our response to the tragedy of suicide among Taos youth. One of the clinicians at NVW has quietly volunteered to work with community members to provide a safe place for youth to process fears and grief. Our staff at the middle school and high school has processed suicidal impulses with 15 youth since the start of this school year. These are usually crisis situations where — in spite of no funding — we respond to needs. NVW then sponsored three special trainings in suicide prevention for Taos clinicians and other community members. Another training is planned for March of this year.
NVW has a supervised visitation program for parents who have restricted visiting rights to their children. We serve at least 20 families a year in this program.
Men and women who have experienced and/or engaged in domestic violence are served in our nonviolence awareness classes (NAC) — with strong and supportive skill-building curriculum. Twenty-three men and eight women have been served this year. An additional 260 adults are seen by the clinical staff in a variety of therapeutic models — including couples therapy and individual counseling.
Serving more than 1,000 individuals and 20 families is a tremendous challenge to NVW staff members. They serve because of their commitment, they serve because they believe in Taos — and as members of a staff, they share skills and concerns to enhance their success.
We depend on strong relationships with other agencies and the schools in order to serve those in greatest need. In addition, we are deeply grateful to individual and business donors who step forward to support these services. Just recently, Cid’s Food Market provided Familia y Mundo a gift certificate to purchase food for our winter break program. Smith’s grocery store has also provided ongoing support. To them all, we say, “Thank you — and let’s continue to invest in the life of Taos as we move into 2017.”
NVW has the largest staff of behavioral health counselors and clinicians in Northern New Mexico. For more information, call (575) 758-4207 or go to nonviolenceworks.us. Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at (575) 779-3126 or email@example.com.