The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


District launches mental health court

Following an eight-month planning period, the Thirteenth Judicial District Court in Sandoval County began accepting clients for its newly-created Mental Health Court Program on July 1, 2008.

The program, headed by District Court Judge John F. Davis, aims to provide much-needed services to individuals who suffer from mental illness and, as a result, find themselves in and out of the criminal justice system on a frequent basis. The intended impact of the Mental Health Program is to stop the “revolving door” effect that has developed for these individuals by addressing the underlying cause of their contact with the system, and linking them with appropriate services in the community, rather than leaving them behind bars. In addition to providing access to traditional treatment services, such as medication and counseling services, the program will assist participants in accessing other social services in the community.

State Representative Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R-Sandoval County) provided the first round of funding in the amount of $80,000, which was secured by during the 2007 legislative session in order to plan and implement the program. An additional $90,000 was secured by Representative Powdrell-Culbert during the 2008 legislative session. In addition to funds appropriated by the New Mexico legislature, the planning committee applied for and was awarded $80,000 by ValueOptions of New Mexico. The planning committee has also applied for federal funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The District hopes to secure the funding necessary to make the program available throughout the district, which includes Cibola and Valencia Counties.

On August 6, 2008, Judge Davis held the program’s first hearing for the program’s first participants. The Mental Health Court team meets each Wednesday morning to review each participant’s progress in the program, as well as any issues they may have encountered concerning their treatment plans, employment, housing, and transportation. At the weekly Mental Health Court hearing, these issues are addressed with each participant and continued progress is heavily encouraged.

Along with Judge Davis, members of the Mental Health Court Team include representatives from two treatment agencies in the community, the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, defense counsel, and the Mental Health Court Coordinator.

The Mental Health Court Team is presently seeking individuals who are interested in becoming a member of the advisory committee to provide guidance and support to the program.

For more information regarding the advisory committee or the Mental Health Court Program, please contact Gregory T. Ireland, Court Executive Officer, (505) 865-4291, ext. 2104, or by email at

Death to cheeseburgers? Maybe not

If you’re concerned about the effect your food choices have on the environment, you might want to reconsider cheeseburgers. A recent study shows that beef and milk products are the world’s most polluting foods, thanks to the greenhouse gases released by cows.

Meanwhile, in what has to be awkward news for locavores, the study, reported by the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, also found that eating locally offers few benefits in terms of preventing greenhouse gases.

Crunching numbers from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Transportation, a Carnegie Mellon University research team calculated that shipping food from where it was produced to where it’s finally consumed creates only four percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Producing the food accounts for eighty-three percent.

So if you’re serious about combating climate change with your eating habits, you need to make your decisions where they count. Locally purchased veggies, for example, have a larger impact on reducing greenhouse emissions than the local purchase of any other type of food, according to the study.

The production of cattle, on the other hand, creates so much greenhouse gas that the delivery from meat packer to consumer makes barely a dent in the cow’s greenhouse gas hoof print. Much carbon gets burned in the raising and shipping of cattle feed and in moving cows around during production. And even the grass-fed cow next door produces methane—one of the worst greenhouse gases—as a metabolic byproduct.

The researchers calculated that if one were to eat one hundred percent locally, a feat that’s probably rare, it would save roughly the equivalent of one cheeseburger per week’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions.

While the statistical averages suggest that greenhouse gas emissions from food transport are relatively small compared to the emissions caused by production, those numbers don’t reveal that today’s average production and consumption practices are much more polluting than they need to be. Meanwhile, the people who are developing, using, and supporting less destructive farming practices weren’t statistically significant enough to be included in this study, acknowledged lead researcher Chris Weber.

“The subset that gardens or buys food at farmers’ markets is too small,” he says.

If locavores and their ilk are too few to be statistically significant, it suggests that all the conscious eating that some people are trying to do won’t do a lick of global good as long as everybody else is popping cheeseburgers like Prozac. Nonetheless, I prefer drinking the Kool-Aid of local, sustainable farming. Nobody has proven it makes no difference, and I think that aiming for a carbon-neutral diet has plenty of perks.

Reducing your intake of “average” cheeseburgers can’t hurt your survival odds. Meanwhile, the above-average vegetables and grass-fed beef that are being produced with care by your local farmer offers, in my experience, above-average flavor. And getting your food from the source can offer a super-sized serving of fun.

At the farmers’ market last week, for example, a rancher named Ernie told me about a blind steer he couldn’t herd into his coral for slaughter, so the inspector and the butcher had to go into the pasture to inspect and kill it. “It’s the best way,” Ernie said. “I wish we could do it that way every time.” Only under special circumstances, like with blind animals, is a field inspection permitted. “It’s peaceful, there’s no adrenaline; the meat’s a lot better.”

I bought a rib-eye steak off of Ernie’s blind steer. Then Ernie got going about how yellow his butter is these days, thanks, he believes, to the dandelion-rich diet of his dairy cows. At that point, I noticed Ernie’s feta, which reminded me that I have a patch of spinach that needs to be harvested.

Ernie’s blind cow, thinly sliced and fried with yellow onions, Philly-style, was spectacular. Ernie’s yellow butter was so good I ate it plain, like cheese. And my spinach/feta salad with red onions was perfect.

The world has too many cows. But maybe, for special occasions, it’s okay to have a few of our tasty bovine friends around—especially if you’re a fan of organic agriculture, which uses manure as fertilizer. As my farmer friend Steve once pointed out: “Somebody has to make that s—-.”

If we reduce the quantity but increase the quality of the beef and milk products we eat, then we’ll eat better and perhaps live longer, while having more fun. And if there are enough of us, we’ll probably leave a better planet behind us.

Caring adults needed to make a difference in child’s life

New Mexico Voices for Children is expanding the popular Wise Men/Wise Women (WMWW) mentorship program into public schools in Rio Rancho and Bernalillo, and needs caring adults to match with kids aged six to fourteen. Mentors can put in as little as thirty to sixty minutes a week (depending on length of class period) for a period of one year. All meetings take place at the school and during school hours (9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.). Mentors must attend a one-hour training session, after which they are paired with a child who has been identified by school counselors as needing more adult support in their lives.

“The activities can be anything from playing checkers to drawing or reading together,” said project director Robyn Kelley. “It’s not a tutoring program in the traditional sense, but most of the kids see improved academic success as a result of the improved self-esteem they get out of having a relationship with a caring adult.”

While the program is geared toward building children’s self-esteem and helping them recognize their unique potentials, set future goals, and becoming responsible citizens, mentors report satisfaction with their involvement as well. “You have the opportunity to make a real difference in a child’s life. What can make you feel better than that?” said Kelley.

New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families, and communities. For more information, call (505) 244-9505 or visit



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