NCI continues to seek funding, faces closure next month

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, May 16, 2013

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T he future remains uncertain for the area's only non-medical alcohol crisis intervention and treatment center.

The Na'nizhoozhi Center Inc., better known as NCI, continues to seek funding in order to continue providing treatment and services to individuals who are alcohol dependent.

In a report Monday to the Navajo Nation Council's Law and Order Committee, NCI Executive Director Jay Azua spoke to committee members about the financial shortfall the facility continues to face.

"NCI faces closure perhaps as quickly as next month," Azua said. "We are operating on our reserves as I speak."

In December, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly presented a $300,000 check for emergency funding to NCI.

Azua said that amount kept the facility open throughout the winter.

But an additional $300,000 is needed to keep it open to June 30 and another $1.4 million is needed to ensure operation to June 2014, according to a report distributed to the committee.

The facility was built and opened in 1992 under an intergovernmental agreement between the City of Gallup, McKinley County, the Navajo Nation and the Pueblo of Zuni.

It provides services to residents from communities surrounding Gallup and in McKinley County, 98 percent are Navajo and 40 percent of intakes come from Arizona, Azua said.

"Gallup is historically known for drawing individuals in for business and otherwise, unfortunately one of those businesses they partake of is alcohol consumption," he said.

A rising trend in recent years is the number of young people and females receiving services at NCI, he said.

As for the financial decline, one reason is that the annual federal pass through appropriation that NCI used to receive began decreasing in fiscal year 2010 before ceasing in fiscal year 2012.

NCI has been searching for funding, he said then added that a recent proposal was submitted to the tribe's Department of Behavioral Health Services for its "Border Town Initiative," a grant to facilities that offer detoxification, protective custody services and treatment programs in border towns.

"However, we think that if that goes through the process, even if they were to fund us, it maybe too little, too late," he said.


Committee chair Edmund Yazzie (Church Rock/Iyanbito/Mariano Lake/Pinedale/Smith Lake/Thoreau) said he remembers when Gallup police would house intoxicated individuals in a large room referred to as the "drunk tank."

"They would take the individual, let them sleep it off then let them loose like cattle. It wasn't right until NCI took over," Yazzie said then added that the services NCI provides is beneficial for the community.

NCI board member Frank Gonzales, the former McKinley County sheriff, remembers a revolving door of inebriated individuals being housed for up to 12 hours in law enforcement facilities then released only to return hours later.

"In order to prevent from this getting worse, NCI has to exist," Gonzales said.

Committee members did not commit to secure funding from the tribe but among the questions they asked was why other entities were not financially helping NCI.

Yazzie, along with committee member Elmer Begay (Dilkon/Greasewood Springs/Indian Wells/Teesto/White Cone), questioned the distribution of the liquor excise tax and why it is not helping the facility.

"Maybe if the nation can help in a way we need to also put pressure on the county and the city to help the program as well," Yazzie said.

Azua explained that the tax has been designated for other alcohol-related operation, prevention and treatment programs in the area.

Committee vice chair Alton Joe Shepherd (Cornfields/Ganado/Jeddito/Kin Dah Lichíí/Steamboat) wanted more detailed information about how NCI addresses alcohol addiction and the solutions it provides.

"Because there is that line between abuse and addiction," he said.

Shepherd also asked about the number of liquor licenses issued in the city and in the county and if any attempts have been made to reduce those number of establishments.

In Gallup and McKinley County, there are 46 dispenser liquor licenses, 14 restaurant beer and wine licenses, 3 fraternal organization licenses, 2 wholesaler licenses, and 1 wine license, according to the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

Examples of businesses that need a dispenser liquor license are bars, full service restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, gift shops, and nightclubs.

These types of licenses are bought and sold, transferred to new locations or leased, with prior approval of the state Alcohol and Gaming Division.

Azua is scheduled to present another report about NCI on today's proposed agenda for the Council's Naa'bik'iyáti' Committee.

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