Community Participation in New Mexico’s Behavioral Health Care Reform

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Abstract

In 2005, New Mexico implemented a unique reform in managed behavioral health services that seeks to ensure delivery of consumer-driven, recovery-oriented care to low-income individuals. Distinguishing features of the reform are the Local Collaboratives (LCs), regionally based community organizations designed by state government to represent behavioral health concerns of New Mexico’s diverse cultural populations. We examine community response to the LCs, focusing on two broad sets of themes derived from 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork. The first set—structure and function—encompasses several issues: predominance of provider versus consumer voice; insufficient resources to support internal operations; imposition of state administrative demands; and perceived lack of state response to LC efforts. The second set—participation and collaboration—reveals how problems of information flow and other logistical factors impact involvement in LCs and how the construction of “community” introduced under this initiative exacerbates tensions across localities with varied histories and populations.