My Turn

Opinion: A collaborative healing process

By Mary McPhail Gray
Posted 10/17/19

"When a community is dealing with loss, grief and violence, real healing power comes from agencies working together to provide wraparound care services," said Simon Torrez, CEO of Taos Behavioral Health.

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My Turn

Opinion: A collaborative healing process


"When a community is dealing with loss, grief and violence, real healing power comes from agencies working together to provide wraparound care services," said Simon Torrez, CEO of Taos Behavioral Health.

This shared commitment has resulted in the "Collaborative" - composed of Taos Behavioral Health, Golden Willow Treatment Services, Río Grande Treatment and Terry Barsano, the clinical director at Valle del Sol. Meeting regularly, the Collaborative has forged agreements about how to support each other by clarifying their expertise and commitments and streamlining communication and referral processes.

Taos as a community has had a hard year of dealing with loss and grief and all people in Taos have been impacted in some ways -- if only with shock and grief at reading another story in the Taos News.

Early in January, the entire community was mesmerized with the news of the avalanche on Taos mountain. The news spread quickly that day -- like a mining town that had heard the terrible horn that indicated a mining cave-in.

People hungered for news and shared concerns with each other. When the photos emerged of all the volunteers who searched in the snow depths for survivors and the initial news from the hospitals, people reached out to each other and counted who among their friends were skiing that day. When finally we knew that two skilled skiers had died -- we wished we could reach out to those families and provide solace. We were proud of the volunteers who searched for the skiers, the best example of Taos caring.

When the owner of The World Cup Café went missing and neighbors tried to learn if there was danger near them and how they might help, the town responded with support at the business and provided a way for customers to make comforting statements. The business was a habitual center for many people's lives and the loss of their friend and business owner was shocking.

When a young adult struggling with the aftermath of a serious auto accident took his own life, the community grieved and wished that somehow he might have seen enough support and love that he could keep on fighting a tough painful journey.

When a high school girl was killed in a head-on collision by an individual speeding and possibly high on alcohol, the high school community was traumatized. Clinicians went to the school to help students deal with grief and loss and provide ways for individuals to express their love.

And on an ongoing basis--Taoseños struggle with the realities of substance abuse in their families and friends and ponder how to be helpful. For those who have turned to substances to heal trauma, the initial pain can be lost in the desperation of feeding the habit and keeping on.

In all these tragedies, it is for the friends and neighbors, the living, to deal with the trauma and make a new life pattern. Feelings of grief are very subjective and are impacted by critical variables such as age, gender, culture and previous experience with trauma.

Professionals in behavioral health can provide sensitive support by using a variety of approaches to counseling but a wider community of caring is also critical . Normalizing the reactions of people in grief is empowering and can help individuals better understand how loss affects their lives.

In the Collaborative, services are identified to help clients make a wise contact or referral. Golden Willow provides treatment services that include grief and loss therapies. Río Grande Treatment offers services for those struggling with substance abuse. Taos Behavioral Health provides therapeutic services for families, individuals and youth.

The agencies will collaborate to make certain you are approaching the appropriate service for you needs. It is a strength of a small community that reaches out to create a community of caring. Use it for your journey.

Taos Behavioral Health has the largest staff of licensed and credentialed behavioral health professionals in Northern New Mexico. Reach us at (575) 758-4297 or

Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at (575) 779-3126 or


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