The Las Cruces City Council, presented with background information regarding youth development and diversion services that have effectively been provided to Las Cruces and Doña Ana County youth, discussed potential ways to increase funding to expand services and programs during a work session on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Council Chambers at City Hall.
No definitive plans were announced. There was consensus from City Council that the Youth Development and Diversion program was worthy of more funding.
Some of the possibilities discussed by City Council that could increase funding were to explore additional grant funding, and to meet with Doña Ana County government officials and nonprofit stakeholders.
The Youth Development and Diversion program has been in Las Cruces for about 15 years and has been operated by the City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department since the 2017 fiscal year. The program is available to City and County youth who have been referred for those services by law enforcement agencies, the Juvenile Probation Office, schools, or by families.
Two primary youth development and diversion service programs are available. Those include the Juvenile Citation Program, and the Juvenile Assessment and Reporting Center (JARC).
Goals of the program are to decrease the incidence of delinquency in the community, provide proper alternatives to detention while increasing the emphasis on prevention and early intervention in Juvenile Justice Services. The program also provides a series of diversion programs for at-risk youth who commit a misdemeanor or status offense or need positive health and personal development.
Currently, the City is in the second year of a four-year grant agreement with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and serves as the program's fiscal agent. The state grant for the City’s 2021-2022 fiscal year is $308,779.
During the time the City has had oversight of the Youth Development and Diversion Program its success rate has been 92 percent. In its first three fiscal years, an average of 286 youth annually participated in the program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the average annual participation the past three fiscal years has been 167 youth.
Program participants engage in a variety of educational topics, including adolescent mental health; alcohol and drug use abuse and prevention; bullying; civic responsibility; communication; conflict resolution; employment and continuing education; healthy relationships; leadership; self-esteem; and teen dating violence.
Additionally, at Monday’s work session, El Paso Electric Co. updated City Council on several topics. Those included the utility’s automated meter system rollout timeline, its transportation electrification plan, the company’s intent to invest $20 million in the next 20 years to stimulate economic development, El Paso Electric’s strategic plan, and the progress and plans to achieve the utility’s renewable portfolio standard.