NCI facing possible closure

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

GALLUP, August 23, 2012

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

A client of Na'Nizhoozhi Center, Inc., better known as NCI, walks to the entrance where he will spend the night. NCI may be closing its doors soon as their funding has been dramatically reduced.

T he area's primary resource to help people who are drunk and on the streets of Gallup may be forced to shut its doors next February because of funding problems.

In the last couple of years, Na'Nizhoozhi Center, Inc., better known as NCI, has seen its funding reduced by the various agencies that fund it and now it's getting to the point where the detox program just can't survive at the reductions it is being asked to make, according to NCI officials.

Jay Azua, NCI's director, said that at one time the Navajo Nation provided the program with $2 million a year. The tribe currently provides nothing to the program.

In the last couple of months, the city of Gallup, which provides money to the program through a distribution of liquor excise taxes, is also planning to make cuts to NCI.

Figures provided by NCI show that the program has been seeing its budget cut almost every year since 2009 when it was operating its detoxification program at a level of $1,736,757. In 2012, just three years later, despite higher costs, the program's budget is now $1.4 million.

The program serves an average of 80 clients per day or 29,200 clients per year. To do this, NCI employees a total of 66 full-time workers.

"NCI has done everything (it can) to reduce expenditures," the NCI board said in a recent statement. "It has become more efficient as reflected in clean and successful audits for the past four years and is a nationally recognized program of excellence."

NCI officials point out that closing in February would come at a time when organizations like NCI are needed to protect the health and welfare of Gallup's street people who depend on NCI especially when the weather gets cold and there is no other place to house them.

"The closing of NCI will have a major impact on the social fibers of this community and region," the board statement said, adding that the closure will result in increased exposure deaths, more domestic violence, increased crime and more work for the area's law enforcement and hospital emergency rooms.

"The costs to the community taxpayer will be far greater than the costs of continued NCI services," the board said.

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