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Three Las Cruces leaders in the mental-health field have been appointed to serve on a 40-person advisory council for the state’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD).
The Las Cruces representatives on the advisory council will be Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage New Mexico, Michael Armendariz, director of Tresco Children Services, and Ruth Ann Ortiz, president of the board of directors of the New Mexico Association for Infant Mental Health (NMAIMH).
The Las Cruces Bulletin reached out to all three, but only Ortiz responded. NMAIMH was incorporated in 2004 to provide a forum for interdisciplinary collaboration by advocating for the application of infant mental health principles in services for infants, young children and caregivers.
Bulletin: What do you bring to the council that is unique?
Ortiz: The New Mexico Association for Infant Mental Health is a non-profit association working across the state to support our early childhood workforce to become endorsed in infant mental health. We are the holders of the license to endorse applicants. There are 32 other states who have the endorsement process. We were one of the first states to have been part of this cohort across the nation to purchase the license to become endorsed in infant mental health. Our goal is to help the early-childhood workforce gain the eight core competencies training with children ages three and younger. As the board president, I’ll be working to ensure that we are part of the process to build a high-quality workforce that includes early childhood workforce development to include endorsement for all the workforce.
Bulletin: How important is it for Las Cruces and Dona Ana County to be represented on the council, and why?
Ortiz: It is very important for Dona Ana County to be represented in order to have in mind our southern part of the state, as we are unique with the population that is closer to the border and to have our needs in our communities heard and represented as we make decisions for providers across the state.
Bulletin: Forty people is a very large group for one council. How will you make sure the voice of NMAIMH and southern NM is heard loud and clear.
Ortiz: I believe that I am not shy, nor am I going to sit back and not speak out for our association, as sometimes we have not been in the forefront with making changes in our state. Now that I am part of this advisory council, I will speak out during our meetings. I will share my passion, enthusiasm and knowledge about infants, toddlers and families as the core of why we are doing what we are doing.
Bulletin: What else should our readers know about the council and your role on it?
Ortiz: I will have the infants, toddlers and families in mind in the forefront as I put forth my thoughts and feedback. I want them to know that infant mental health is so important to support them and build a strong, high quality workforce engaged in the endorsement process. We are a state that is the highest in child abuse and neglect, I want to be able to make the change to support families to make this change and be the change that we want to see in the here and now and future. We want families to start understanding what this looks like for them and what is the benefit for them to have such a workforce and reach out to families to understand what we are doing and why.
According to a press release, the advisory council membership reflects geographic, cultural, linguistic, gender, ethnic and racial diversity and experience in a range of early childhood and higher-education settings.
The council will also include two professional facilitators, and is scheduled to meet four times in 2020 before submitting a series of recommendations to the governor and legislature.