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Organization forms to assist restructuring needs

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By Carol A. Clark

As restructuring plans unfold at Los Alamos National Laboratory, local and state organizations are mobilizing to prepare for the needs that typically arise under these circumstances. Representatives from 32 businesses and organizations gathered at the Community Building Nov. 9 and again Monday.A representative from SER, Santa Fe Jobs for Progress, explained when more than 50 employees are affected by a restructuring or layoff situation, the state has funds set aside to help. SER, the New Mexico Workforce Connection and other agencies step in and mobilize a “rapid response” to assist with any ripple affects that may occur, he said. Many people have never worked any place other than the lab and can’t imagine any opportunity in this, said one of several psychologists involved in the new group. Debbie Gill of the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce told the group, “There are successful ways to manage change.”Chamber Executive Director Kevin Holsapple agreed adding there are many resources already in place to assist people. “The purpose of the dialogue we have convened is to address community preparedness for helping people deal with effects of the continuing LANL uncertainties,” Holsapple said. “In just our first two meetings, 44 people representing 32 different businesses and organizations in the region have come together to work on this. There are mental health professionals, social service agencies, medical providers, businesses, employment resources, financial planners, and local and state government represented within the group. There are already action plans being worked for ideas the group has the immediate means to address and we expect the group will formulate recommendations for additional activities and needs that will improve community capabilities.” The group divided into three action areas Monday, he said. Social Worker Pam Houghteling is leading the research group compiling “lessons learned” data from other communities who have gone through Bechtel and DOE restructuring. Joan Story of the New Mexico Workforce Connection is heading up the resources area that is looking into what's in place and the availability of what may be needed as time goes on. Los Alamos School Board member Jody Benson is in charge of public information and education. UNM-LA, the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, SER and the New Mexico Workforce Connection are organizing a community services fair to be held Dec. 6 at UNM-LA to bring all of the resources that give service to anybody in Los Alamos together in one place. “You don't know about a resource until you need it,” Story said. Sharon Stover coordinates the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) and on Wednesday explained the background of how the new group came about. JJAB Chair/Municipal Court Judge Alan Kirk asked her to look into the effects surfacing from ongoing LANL uncertainties and how JJAB might help. “We were looking at youth and their parents but realized it was a much bigger issue than JJAB,” Stover said. “When we looked at the whole bigger issue, that’s when we went to Kevin and asked him to help find people to participate and also to get the chamber involved.”She continued, “We looked at things like, how do we deal with this, what do we need to get ready for, what are some things we can take on, and what are some of the opportunities available now in the community that people can use.”Stover described the participants in their first two meetings as “very positive” and said they’ve assembled a solid group of people to work on the issues related the restructuring. Holsapple suggested once they identify immediate action items achievable through resources already in place, they share those with LANL, the state and the congressional delegation. The group also spoke of sharing their recommendations with the lab, the Department of  Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and New Mexico’s congressional delegation to help them understand the local impact from the restructuring.LANL’s Johnnie Martinez from the Community Programs Office, lab psychologist Tom Locke, Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Sandoval and Santa Fe and county councilors Mike Wheeler and Robert Gibson are among many local participants involved in the new group. To join the effort, e-mail the chamber at chamber@ losalamos.com.