Na’nizhoozhi (the bridge) Center Inc. in Gallup, New Mexico is the largest social detoxification center in the nation. The only larger one in the world is in Siberia. About 27,000 NCI clients, or relatives as the center calls them, pass through their doors annually. Ninety-eight percent are Navajo, and ninety-eight percent of the staff are Navajo. NCI is the envy of cities across the country. Doctors who visit comment that they wish there was something comparable in their cities. The medical establishment in Albuquerque has inquired about their model.
The city’s community service aides are instructed to collect publically intoxicated persons who appear to be in danger of hurting themselves or others, and deliver them to NCI, where they are held up to 72 hours in the facility’s non-medical detox facility, which has 160 beds. Afterwards, if they so choose, they may enter one of NCI’s residential treatment programs, which last up to 60 days.
Now the center is threatened with imminent closure as the more than million dollars a year in federal funding designated for the social detox program has been co-opted by the Navajo Nation and the squeeze is on.
The request by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D- Gallup, for emergency funding of $700,000 to keep NCI open until further funding can be established, House Bill 384, sailed through the Health, Government, and Indian Affairs Committee last week. As of February 26, it has yet to be heard by the Appropriations and Finance Committee. Once it passes the Appropriations committee it will go to the floor for a vote. Lundstrom is a member of the Appropriations and Finance Committee, and so far the bill has received a positive reception.
Senate Bill 397, which proposes to increase McKinley County’s liquor excise tax from 5% to 10% and is specifically designed to generate 1.4 million in revenues to secure funds for NCI ‘s continued operations has been introduced by Sen. George Munoz. It was passed unanimously Feb. 15th by the Public Affairs committee, chaired by Sen. Ortiz y Pino D-Albuquerque, and according to public documents, then referred on to the Senate Finance committee, which Munoz sits on. Those funds will not be immediately as available, as the Tax and Revenue Department notes that imposition of a local tax prior to 2014 would be unlikely, given “the requirements for public meetings and voter approval no less than 90 days following voter approval.”
The legislature ends on March 16th.
Mayor Jackie McKinney considers NCI to be a service essential to the City of Gallup, saying, “NCI is in dire straits. It’s very important, we don’t want to go back to where we were in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.” The funding emergency emerged when NCI’s primary federal funding, that had been in place for 18 years, and that was established by a memorandum of agreement between the city, the county, the Navajo, and the Zuni tribes, dried up over the last three years as it was directed to other programs within the Navajo Nation. Tribal officials said that those monies will now fund a Border Town Initiative Request for Proposal that will be offered later this year to all the towns bordering the Navajo Nation, including Farmington, NM and others in Arizona as well as Gallup, depending on funding availability. A final emergency check from the tribe for $300,000 issued on Christmas Eve, 2012, has kept the detox center open during the winter months.
An in-depth front cover story on NCI by Diane J. Schmidt first appeared on 2/5/2013 in the new Gallup Post Weekly, Issue 1 Number 1, and a followup legislative article was printed in their 2/21/13 issue, p. 5. This piece gives a current news update to those stories.