Former Sandoval County Commissioner and former Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack left, sits next Sandoval County Financial Adviser Rob Burpo, during the last Sandoval County Commission meeting.
(Courtesy photo)

BERNALILLO –AMI Kids, located in Cuba, will start taking in-state youth in October.

Former Sandoval County Commissioner and former Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack made that announcement at the Sandoval County Commission meeting Thursday.

AMI Kids, started in 2010, was originally set up to take federally charged youth who ranged in ages from 14 to 18 and had been convicted of a felony. The facility, which sits in the corner of Sandoval County Fairgrounds, was designed to house 30 kids.

According to Sandoval County financial advisor Rob Burpo, in 2017 the federal government began cutting back on the number of inmates being sent to AMI.

“For a number of years, to AMI’s credit, they were able to keep the facility open with anywhere from six to 14 kids,” he said. “AMI was a true community partner in this and kept the doors open, when they could’ve done some other things.”

However, Burpo said because of the setback on inmates, AMI asked the county for an abatement on the rent to help them keep the facility running, which the county granted.

To help with this financial dilemma, said Swisstack, an AMI board member, AMI will not take federal inmates as of October.

“We are moving forward now with children from New Mexico,” he said.

In order to work with local courts and the Children, Youth and Family Department’s education program, Swisstack said, AMI had to become Medicaid-certified. He said AMI and its board obtained this certification in just under 60 days.

AMI is now certified with three insurance companies: Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Western Sky and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“This process will allow (AMI) to take children from New Mexico,” he said. “Before this was in place, we had sent nearly 160 children out of state for services.”

As of Oct. 1, Swisstack said, the facility can take in 26 children.

“This is not an exaggeration because we made some modifications to the facility,” he said. “In addition to that, we are hiring for six new positions.”

Swisstack also said AMI has enhanced its services with Presbyterian Medical Services, which will provide bed management and psychiatric services.

“The hope here is that if we fill that capacity, we can use the third building on the AMI campus that is being used for recreation to expand AMI’s capacity to approximately 38 kids,” he said.

Swisstack said he could not thank the county enough for all it’s done to help AMI through the rough patch in the last three years.