Resilience Rising: MolinaCares Accord's Commitment to Local Behavioral Health
In spring of 2022, New Mexico suffered the largest wildfire in the state’s history when a prescribed burn merged with a nearby sleeper fire. The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire charred over 340,000 acres in Mora and San Miguel counties, destroying homes and water systems, rendering land unfarmable for years to come, and threatening the livelihood of ways of life of families who have called this region home for generations.
To help, the Santa Fe Community Foundation activated its Community Resiliency Fund, an adaptive emergency response fund for events such as pandemics, extreme weather events, and wildfires. Thanks to its many supporters, the fund began deploying emergency grants within days – ultimately disbursing $500,000 to local nonprofits providing essential services.
Christopher Goett, president & CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation, said that The MolinaCares Accord was among the first to support the fund when the fires began.
“Their commitment to the health and well-being of our community is apparent,” said Goett. “We’re incredibly grateful for their early support of the Community Resiliency Fund, which was pivotal in our ability to provide immediate relief.”
Funds from MolinaCares’ generous $25,000 gift supported local health organizations like Mora Valley Community Health Services (MVCHS), a nonprofit that provides quality medical, dental, and behavioral health services to local area residents regardless of their ability to pay.
“We were fortunate to be in a position to remain open throughout the fire,” said Stephen Beauchamp of MVCHS. “Our staff made it their top priority to serve the patients who needed us the most.”
Like many local nonprofits, MVCHS adapted the scope of its work to meet the dire needs of its community members. Through the fires and subsequent flooding, its behavioral health staff conducted wellness checks for their most vulnerable members, offered food and water to people who did not know where their next meal would come from, and delivered prescriptions to residents displaced by evacuations.
"During the fires, the anxiety of being evacuated was stressful enough but when I realized I was running out of medication, I panicked,” said one Mora resident. “Fortunately, I was able to get in contact with the employees from MVCHS. They were able to fill my prescription and went out of their way to deliver it to me while the roads were closed.”
Emergency grants made possible by MolinaCares’ gift also supported the mental health of local children, many of whom experienced several rounds of evacuations and saw their homes destroyed.
“We recognize the trauma that these kids have experienced,” said Steve Smaby, owner of Collins Lake Ranch, a nonprofit for people with disabilities. “That’s why we partnered with Mora Valley Community Health Services to bring a behavioral therapist each Friday so the kids can talk about their experiences with the fire.”
In addition, Collins Lake Ranch began offering a unique educational program in conjunction with Mora Independent School District (MISD) and Highlands University. Each Friday, the Ranch hosts 50-60 students for a day of environmental learning — including land restoration. The excursions provide a welcome escape from the ongoing realities of the fire and subsequent flooding.
Carolyn Ingram, executive director of The MolinaCares Accord, applauded the response efforts made possible through the MolinaCares grant.
“We were devastated to see the impact of these wildfires,” said Carolyn Ingram, executive director of The MolinaCares Accord. “Their effects span beyond the physical loss of homes and livelihood, but also the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our neighbors. I am grateful for the organizations that were able to use this donation to help our communities get back on their feet.”
While the road to recovery will be long, the resilience of the local community and generosity of supporters like The MolinaCares Accord give us much optimism for the future.