Lea County Intervenes for Juvenile Intervention Program

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

LEA COUNTY, NEW MEXICO - A juvenile intervention program in Lea County has been left in a lurch after state budget cuts. The center offers an alternative to detention aiming to help troubled teens get back on their feet. County leaders say it's vital to Southeastern New Mexico and recently a few of them stepped in to help out. 

The counselors at the Youth Reporting Center are helping Lea County teens through substance abuse, family, and behavioral problems.

"Our Youth Reporting Center serves a purpose in this community," Ernie Holland, Executive Director for Lea County Guidance Center, said. "I think it gives kids the chance to get treatment, education, and the supervision they need and allows them to be with their families."

The court-ordered intervention program helps teens who were headed straight for the detention facility get back on their feet and continue their education.

"Our main goal is to get them back into school, mainstreamed back into a school setting, get them back to their lives with their families and out of the court system," Holland said.

State budget cuts took away about half of the center's funding.

"The state right now doesn't have a lot of money. There's a budget crisis in the state of New Mexico, but Children, Youth, and Families feels there is a value to having a Youth Reporting Center," Holland said.

That's when the Lea County Commissioners stepped in. They applied for a state grant and they say that's a decision that's saving money for the entire county.

"Focusing on keeping them in school, focusing on emotional and psychological issues," C.C. Nelson, Lea County Administrator/Grant Writer, said. "We can help get them back on the right track and hopefully they won't enter the criminal justice system as adults."

While the State and County are sharing the cost, the County Administrator tells NewsWest 9, the real benefit isn't in a dollar sign.

"From the perspective of the Administrator for the County, it's saving money. From the perspective of an individual, it's perhaps saving lives," Nelson said.