Growth plan highlights housing, mental health challenges

Freedom New Mexico

Housing, mental health services, public transportation, future water availability and recreation are among items in the area that need improvement, according to a growth management plan released Monday.

The Regional Growth Management Plan is aimed at evaluating the communities within Curry and Roosevelt counties and their needed responses to growth at Cannon Air Force Base.

Rough estimates indicate the base will add 3,400 to 5,700 personnel by 2015.

The area needs more housing with special attention to the requirements and budgets of military personnel, in addition to a better rental market, the study said. According to the study, housing prices are higher than the average airman can afford and continuing to rise, there is little to no rental housing, and most existing housing is more than 30 years old.

Lack of transportation among Clovis, Cannon and Portales is also an issue, the study said, though it acknowledged efforts to improve air service to the airports in Clovis and Portales.

In terms of health care, the plan said the area needs more specialists and four to six additional dentists, and it identified a “serious lack of mental health providers and treatment resources.”

The area has only one psychiatrist, a shortage of licensed mental health providers and no inpatient treatment resources, the study said. It recommended strong recruiting of specialists and providers, and attempting to obtain state money for mental health resources.

The plan also highlighted health concerns in the area, including high rates of obesity, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. It pointed to a greater-than-normal number of deaths from heart disease, lung cancer and asthma, with high rates of diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The plan suggested annual evaluations of the issues along with programs in the community to address high-risk behaviors.

In education, overall, the plan said area schools have qualified teachers, and enrollment numbers show confidence in the public schools. Failure by some schools to meet academic yearly progress goals is more indicative of a problem in the state’s response to No Child Left Behind legislation than in the local education system.

And the plan lauded the low cost of living as an appealing factor to those who want a higher quality of life on a mid- to low-level income. It also said there are numerous recreational opportunities, many of which are not well publicized, within a few hours’ drive.