Bernalillo County has signed the lease on a space for East Mountain residents to receive support for stress reduction, emotional connection, and other behavioral health needs. The facility will be called Imagine Wellness and is slated to open in August.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty is leading the project with her vision of providing everyday behavioral health resources to the community. She said part of her vision is that they will be able to offer different resources including things like stress management, grief groups and parenting classes. Pyskoty is a mental health professional.

Pyskoty said the facility—located in the old Just Imagine Gallery and Tijeras Arts Market space—ideally would expand with the needs and wants of the community. She hopes to be able to create a meditation garden and offer things like art therapy in the future.

She said the facility will be a community support center, an information center, and a referral center.

What it won’t have is clinical or medical intensive care on the premises. The idea would be that the community has access to the county’s resources through referrals, including for specific intensive care needs like suicide prevention, counseling, rehab, and other crisis-related needs.

Imagine Wellness will use trained peers to provide emotional support, help identify needed resources, and offer short-term mentorship, Pyskoty said. Initially, the program will serve adults, with a future goal of serving people across the age spectrum with a variety of therapeutic and supportive programs and classes.

“Residents from our East Mountain communities must often travel into Albuquerque to access behavioral health support services,” Pyskoty said. “It is time to extend these services to the East Mountains, and peer support has proven more effective than clinical settings for everyday behavioral health issues.”

Located in the former Just Imagine Gallery, directly across from the Tijeras Senior Center, the Imagine Wellness location is accessible from the freeway.

The program will operate five to six days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is no cost to use peer support services and any person, from the East Mountains or not, can access the services, Pyskoty said.

“We wanted to capitalize on the previous space that was Just Imagine Gallery because Anna King put so much love and care into the facility, into creative expression, and to create a healing and welcoming space for the community,” Pyskoty said, adding, “Because of that we decided to name the facility Imagine Wellness, a nod to Just Imagine.”

She said they want to create a place where all ages can connect to community resources.

The Imagine Wellness community support center is being funded through the Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Initiative at $330,000 a year, for two years. It’s hoped that after three years, Imagine Wellness will be partially self-sustaining, receiving reimbursement for covered services through Medicaid and other available funding streams, Pyskoty said.

According to Anna King, the building she is renting to the county is reportedly the Old Tijeras Fort, dating back to the Civil War when it was a gathering place to socialize and sell crops. King said it was also a dance hall at one point.

King said that she has been working since 2019 on renovations. The space has a new roof, many new windows, all-new flooring, several new exits, all-new plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, a handicap-accessible bathroom and new kitchen area. Outside, the booths have all been replaced with hard tops in anticipation of future use.

“Many people have looked at the property and made offers but we said, ‘no,’” King said, “because it was important that the next thing coming in be good for the community and we always saw it as a gathering space.” She said she is very excited to see what the county does with it.