Dave Heil

When talking about Sandoval County, we usually hear about public safety, the courts, the detention center, the treasurer’s office, public works and roads, and energy issues.

But there is a department that operates quietly to serve the residents of Sandoval County in multiple ways.

Our Community Services Department provides a wealth of services throughout the county’s geographically and culturally diverse communities in our over 3,700 square miles. The Community Service mission is to improve quality of life by providing access to health care and social services.

The department is staffed by about 100 employees and 250 volunteers. Almost 80 percent of Community Services’ budget is from various grants and restricted funding sources. Sandoval County residents get many important services with a minimal impact on the county’s general fund.

Community Service programs include Community Health Programs, Prevention and Intervention, and Senior Programs. In addition, the department director, Anne Ryan, plays a large role in animal welfare and was the catalyst, working with the sheriff’s office, to implement our new animal shelter program, which was recently approved by the commission.

Ryan has also been involved in working with the detention center and UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center to assure behavioral health and substance-abuse health care for detention center residents with the objective of reducing recidivism.

The major programs offered by Community Services are:

  • Community Health Program and Health Care Assistance Program, which includes a consortium with public health and Presbyterian Healthcare Services. County staff work with residents to assist them in enrollment in health insurance, other health care coverage and referrals to health care resources.
  • DWI Prevention, Intervention and Compliance Programs, which include some of the most credentialed clinicians for adult misdemeanor compliance in the state.
  • Juvenile Justice Program, which assists at-risk youth to refocus on becoming productive citizens.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing Program, which is funded 80 percent by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the county. County staff works with residents in need with qualifying for HUD housing assistance programs and/or referral to other housing programs.
  • Senior Center and home food service, including food service at senior centers and Meals on Wheels for home delivery.
  • Senior Volunteer Program, to provide opportunities to assist others in a various programs.
  • Food Nutrition program, which includes a contract with St. Felix Pantry to distribute food to our rural communities.
  • Medical Transportation services for enrolled seniors.

I’ve been a member of the Juvenile Justice Board since long before I was a commissioner. I represent Rio Rancho Kiwanis Club, whose mission is serving children, and we help fund a “Stay in School and Graduate” program that pays for at-risk students to attend summer school to make up credits so they can graduate on schedule.

If you’d like to learn more about Sandoval County Community Services, please see sandovalcountynm.gov/departments/community-services.

Ryan asks that if you come upon Community Services staff members while out and about, please thank them, as they truly are unsung heroes.

(Dave Heil is the Sandoval County Commission chairman and represents District 4.)