Concept art of Behavioral Health Crisis Center
By Makenzie McNeill

Bridging the Gap

Bernalillo County Partners with UNM Hospital to Break Ground on New Behavioral Health Crisis Center

Bernalillo County, in partnership with The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) is set to break ground on the long-awaited Behavioral Health Crisis Center. 

A groundbreaking celebration is planned for Monday, Sept. 26, from 11a.m.-12:30 p.m. next to the UNM Psychiatric Center, 2400 Marble Avenue NE.

The project is funded in part by a behavioral health initiative tax passed by Bernalillo County voters in 2014 to meet the serious need for additional mental health services in the county. 

The revenues from this tax have enabled the county to implement a variety of mental health service initiatives over the past few years.  Now the county is partnering with UNMH to bring one of the centerpieces of the plan to fruition. 

The UNM Psychiatric Center at UNMH is the largest community mental health provider in the state, providing a full spectrum of behavioral health care to thousands of New Mexicans each year. These include psychiatric emergency services, inpatient acute care, the psychiatric urgent care clinic and addiction treatment, as well as a range of outpatient mental health services.

The UNM Psychiatric Center, together with UNM Children’s Psychiatric Center, provides one of the largest continuums of behavioral health care in the Southwest.

Construction planning for the Behavioral Health Crisis Center began in July 2022 as a joint project that will allow Bernalillo County and UNMH to address existing discontinuities in behavioral health care in New Mexico.

“This is definitely a win-win-win situation,” said Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca.


Julie Morgas Baca
This is definitely a win-win-win situation. Bernalillo County, UNMH and the public are all coming together on a long-awaited project offering best practices in behavioral health care for our residents.
Julie Morgas Baca, Bernalillo County Manager

“Bernalillo County, UNMH and the public are all coming together on a long-awaited project offering best practices in behavioral health care for our residents. This county project is delivering on a promise, using $20 million in county funds and a $20 million match from UNMH, for construction and continued operation of a centralized behavioral health care facility.”

UNMH CEO Kate Becker said the new facility will help bridge an existing gap in the levels of care for behavioral health patients in the Albuquerque area.

“Right now, we have many people who do not meet inpatient admission criteria,” Becker said. “The Behavioral Health Crisis Center will help patients who are not acute enough to be in the hospital, but still need more support than just regular outpatient care.”

Morgas Baca and Becker also cited the expansion of the Psychiatric Emergency Department, the increased capacity for pediatric patients and a more defined area for law enforcement to drop off patients as additional benefits of the center.

This new facility will comprise 48,699 square feet and sit adjacent to the UNM Psychiatric Center.

Behavioral Health Crisis Center Exterior
Behavioral Health Crisis Center Exterior
Peer Based Living Room Model (PLR)
Peer Based Living Room Model (PLR)
Psychiatric Emergency Services
Psychiatric Emergency Services
Crisis Triage Center
Crisis Triage Center
Behavioral Health Crisis Center Parking Lot
Behavioral Health Crisis Center Parking Lot

It will include the Crisis Triage Center (CTC), which will provide medium-acuity crisis stabilization services with 16 single patient bedrooms. Other spaces in the CTC include group therapy and staff support areas, as well as an observation unit.

The Peer-Based “Living Room” Model will offer low-acuity walk-in or referral services in a welcoming environment accessed by a separate public entrance and lobby. This program will also include a respite area, living room space, nourishment area and client work rooms.

UNMH Psychiatric Emergency Services will expand its existing program to the new facility to better serve patients who present with greater psychiatric acuity.

The Behavioral Health Crisis Center is slated for completion in early 2024.

Categories: Community Engagement, Health, News You Can Use, Top Stories, UNM Hospital