2016 Domenici Public Policy Conference

Speakers foster a community conversation about mental health care

Taking its lead from the lifelong advocacy for mental health parity that was a cornerstone of its namesake’s career, the 2016 Pete V. Domenici Public Policy Conference focused heavily on that topic this year, bringing in speakers to explore the challenges of modern mental health care from many angles. The conference, now in its ninth year, was established at NMSU with the goal of continuing Domenici’s legacy of service to the state of New Mexico and the nation by providing unique learning and policy research opportunities. The Domenici Institute also brought together members of the mental health care community in southern New Mexico to facilitate a round-table discussion with several of the speakers, who shared their insights and ideas for addressing challenges in the region.

For more information about the Domenici Institute for Public Policy, visit domenici.nmsu.edu

Patrick J. Kennedy, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation’s leading political voice on mental illness, addiction and other brain diseases, gave a passionate speech during the conference’s second day, detailing his experience with mental illness and his support for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which was championed in the Senate by Pete Domenici and Paul Wellstone, and later by Kennedy’s father, Ted Kennedy.



U.S. Sen. Pete V. Domenici worked throughout his long career to achieve legislation that would improve the lives of people with mental illness.

Mother, author and advocate Liza Long described her family’s fight to get the right diagnosis for her son, becoming emotional as she recounted the day she was forced to charge him with a crime to get him the help he needed.

Jamie Michael with the Doña Ana County Health and Human Services Department and Doña Ana Wellness Institute gave an update on local mental health initiatives, following a roundtable discussion with several of the experts who spoke at the conference.

Miami-Dade County judge Steven Leifman told the audience about the horrible conditions he witnessed for people with mental illness in the criminal justice system. He’s at the forefront of a public policy movement in the criminal justice system to reduce the number of people with mental illness in prison, and to develop alternative approaches that offer treatment and support for recovery.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey shared his research schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – and his advocacy for better treatment for individuals with serious mental illness.

Randy Ko, of University of New Mexico, asks a question of Dr. Fuller Torrey after his presentation. Students from universities all over New Mexico are invited to participate as student panelists during the conference, fostering new research and learning experiences across disciplines. Only 20 students are selected for the program.

Discussion topics ripped straight from the headlines

To discuss the 2016 elections, the conference paired up political strategist and former Bill Clinton campaign manager James Carville and Kristen Soltis Anderson, opposite page, a pollster and author of “The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials are Leading America (And How Republicans Can Keep Up)” for a lively discussion and an extended Q&A with the student panelists. NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers moderated the discussion.

2016 Student Panelists

Kylie Katalinich, Eastern New Mexico University

Tamlyn Crain, New Mexico Highlands University

Cassandra Sanchez, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Garrett Autry, New Mexico State University

Micaela de la Rosa, New Mexico State University

Joli McSherry, New Mexico State University

Dylan Pell, New Mexico State University

Connor Schultz, New Mexico State University

Haley Stewart, New Mexico State University

Margie Vela, New Mexico State University

Tessa Chrisman, University of New Mexico

Tiberius Davis, University of New Mexico

Gabriel Gallegos, University of New Mexico

Sonny Christopher Haquani, University of New Mexico

Andrew Hollis, University of New Mexico

Randy Ko, University of New Mexico

Jay Maharath, University of New Mexico

Monica Moreno, Western New Mexico University

Grecia Rivas, Western New Mexico University



Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry discussed the work his city is doing to improve the relationship and restore trust between the police force and the community following a Department of Justice report that outlined problems in the department.

New Mexico Secretary of Higher Education Barbara Damron detailed some of the strategic priorities for higher ed in the state as it grapples with continued funding challenges.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel opened the conference with a keynote speech on national security. In addition to serving as the 24th U.S. Secretary of Defense – the first enlisted combat veteran to serve in that role – he also served two terms in the U.S. Senate, representing Nebraska.