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April 13, 2014
Contact: City Councilor Isaac Benton, District 2, 553-5675
City Councilor Isaac Benton Calls for Focus on Social Services for Public Safety
City Councilor Isaac Benton is calling for the City of Albuquerque to expand programs addressing homelessness, substance abuse and mental health treatment. His proposals include:
• Cooperation with Bernalillo County and other partners to better coordinate and improve substance abuse and mental health treatment, especially as these relate to public safety and the corrections system;
• Funding for the City-run “winter emergency shelter” to operate year-round;
• Increased budget for the Albuquerque Heading Home program to double or triple the number of individuals served;
• Additional funding for the Workforce Housing Trust Fund to continue to help construct affordable housing in the city.
Much attention has been given to the proposed reforms to APD and the Police Oversight Commission (POC); Benton strongly supports the Department of Justice and Police Oversight Task Force recommendations. He believes that addressing social needs is equally important. Council has authority over the City budget. “We have a responsibility to adopt and to fund changes to civilian police oversight and the other recommendations of the Department of Justice. It is also imperative that we attend to the related and underlying social needs such as homelessness and mental illness,” Benton stated.
The Council is currently reviewing the FY 2015 operating budget. Funding for Social Service programs in the budget was cut four years ago and has only been partially restored. Benton says he is hopeful that he will find support for further increasing funding for these programs. He explained, “We all know that the City’s operating budget has been tight for years and this year is no different. I think strategic increases in funding are now in order. Better partnerships with non-governmental organizations and other governmental agencies are also key to more effective use of our social services and public safety resources.”
Benton has worked for years with various homeless service providers in his district, and understands where the shortfalls lie. As part of the annual budget process, he is working to refine estimates of funding needs and to identify additional resources. Benton will be meeting with representatives of Bernalillo County in the coming days to discuss their substance abuse programs and the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) prisoner release policies.
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