Julie Bau started off in prevention working to reduce tobacco use among kids in Taos, teaching them about its harm, and looking out for their mental health and well-being. That work would grow to include alcohol and drug prevention when she founded Taos Alive, a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping kids safe from substance abuse.

"Prevention is not something with immediate results. You work your entire life, and may never see change. But the hope is that our children will see the change," was something she often said.

Over the course of 10 years, Bau helped secure over $3.3 million in funding for Taos County kids, and brought about a dramatic decline in teen substance abuse in the community.

Bau died of cancer on May 4, 2021. She was 47.

A tribute to her life and legacy will be held at the 10 Years of Taos Alive Celebration on Saturday (June 19) from noon-2:30 p.m. at Rio Fernando Park.

Love for the community

In 2010, Bau partnered with the local hospital Holy Cross Health Systems and the outdoor leadership nonprofit Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to write a grant that would lead to a decade of impact in Taos County.

"Julie had a deep love for her community. She used every resource available to make sure that Taos got the funding it needed to work on these important issues. She fought hard for her community, and made a difference in the lives of so many," said Mary Passaglia, former deputy director of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.

"She led with passion, grace and wisdom. Her work has left an undeniable mark on our community," said Jeannie Ross, Director of Community Health Services at Holy Cross Medical Center.

As founder and program manager for Taos Alive, Bau collaborated with many sectors of the community, and impacted public policy, law enforcement activities and preventative measures, including the installation of four RX [drug] drop-boxes across the county.

Financial support

Bau helped secure over $3.3 million in grant funding, including DFC (Drug Free Communities), HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), CARA (CARA Local Drug Crises Grants), DOH (Department of Health), and DFC grants for Taos Pueblo, the Village of Questa, Red River, Costilla and other northern communities.

"Julie had everything to do with multiplying the number of federally-funded drug free coalitions here in Taos County. During her time leading Taos Alive, Julie gave tremendous support to the northern communities, working with many partners to build the coalition and prepare DFC grant applications," said Janie Corinne, personal and public health consultant, and alcohol policy coordinator for Taos Alive.

"To lessen the impact of alcohol and other drug use at Taos Pueblo, she obtained a mentorship grant, hired and supervised grant staff and lent her tremendous knowledge and skill to the creation of the coalition now known as Taos Pueblo Awareness Coalition Team (TPACT)," said Corinne. "Taos Pueblo then succeeded in obtaining federal DFC funding on its first application."

Impact measured

Bau's impact on kids in the community is demonstrable -- tobacco use among Taos High School students from 2009-2017 dropped from 25 percent to 15 percent. Among Taos Middle School students, the drop is even more severe -- from 33 percent down to 17 percent.

The decrease in teen alcohol consumption among THS students from 2009-2015 dropped from 43 percent to 33 percent, and among TMS students, dropped from 26 percent to 11 percent.

"Taos Alive wouldn't exist without her. Neither would all of the gains we as a community have made together on substance misuse prevention," said Miles Bonny, RX coalition director and co-manager of Taos Alive.

A legacy of love

Bau is survived by her husband Dominic Bau, and children Kauani Bau, Johnny Ortiz, Brandon Ortiz and Allysa Ortiz.

Northern New Mexico community members can celebrate the life and legacy of Julie Bau at the 10 Years of Taos Alive Celebration on Saturday (June 19) from noon-2:30 p.m. at Rio Fernando Park, adjacent to Fred Baca Park. The family-friendly event will include live music, free food, giveaways and a chance to hear more about Bau's contributions to the community.

For more information, visit taosalive.org.

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