Needs improvement: Legislative session ends with mixed results for NM kids

It’s a Wednesday morning at Kids Campus at Santa Fe Community College, and Sacha, an 11-month-old girl, has just taken a few wobbly steps. Staff members hold their breath, and one person exclaims, “Look at her!”

“Many of our kids start in the baby room and work their way through [the pre-K program]” and eventually all the way to college, said Michelle Rosen-Hatcher, a director at Kids Campus, one of a handful of infant care centers in Santa Fe. “We love that we can provide that continuity of care for our kids.”

Unfortunately, New Mexico children haven’t received the same support from state lawmakers, who have effectively marched backwards in recent years. A 2019 report by the Santa Fe Baby Fund shows that there is only enough high-quality center-based care for 7 percent of babies born in Santa Fe. The shortage reflects one of New Mexico’s most entrenched problems. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the state ranks dead last in the country in overall child well-being.

Groundwater contamination devastates a New Mexico dairy – and threatens public health

For
months, Clovis dairy farmer Art Schaap has been watching his life go
down the drain. Instead of selling milk, he is dumping 15,000 gallons
a day – enough to provide a carton at lunch to 240,000 children. Instead of working 24/7 to keep his animals healthy, he’s planning
to exterminate all 4,000 of his cows, one of the best herds in Curry
County’s booming dairy industry. The 54-year-old second-generation dairy farmer learned last August that his water, his land, his crops – even the blood in his body – were contaminated with chemicals that migrated to his property from nearby Cannon Air Force Base. See all of NM Political Report’s coverage on PFAS contamination.

A family changed by gun violence offers case study in New Mexico’s domestic violence problem

July 17 is the best of days in the Gaytan household, because it marks the birthday of 12-year-old Ian, who lives with his grandparents in a doublewide mobile home on a dirt road in Española. And July 17 is the worst of days, because it marks the anniversary of the shooting death of his 20-year-old mother, Jasmine Gaytan, at the hands of his father, Leroy Fresquez, Jr.

It
has been left to Olga Gaytan, a 55-year-old immigrant from
Guanajuato, Mexico, to make sense of the contradictions. “People
say I’m his grandma, but I always say ‘No, I’m his mother,’”
said Gaytan, who stepped in and adopted her grandson following the
2009 murder of her daughter. Jasmine
and Leroy had known each other ever since their days at Carlos F.
Vigil Middle School, the same school Ian now attends. It is the
school where the two of them met, and the school from which they both
dropped out in seventh grade.

Opportunity costs: Weighing a joint venture between children’s hospitals

Mike Chicarelli strode the halls of the children’s pavilion at the University of New Mexico Hospital, fist-bumping nurses and proudly pointing out the hospital’s kid-friendly touches: the surgery waiting room with seats shaped like hot air balloons, the intake counter designed like a 1950s soda fountain. The former emergency nurse, now chief operating officer of UNM Hospitals, was showing off what $234 million could buy a decade ago in infrastructure and technology. But all the bells and whistles haven’t been enough for UNM to hold onto its top pediatric specialists. Competition between UNM and Presbyterian Hospital – the two largest providers of pediatric specialty care in the state – has made it hard for either to sustain programs in cardiology, neurology and other areas of children’s medicine. The hospitals are now discussing a possible joint venture – a single children’s hospital, unified under common governance or housed under the same roof – that would help New Mexico retain hard-to-recruit pediatric specialists, improve care coordination and raise the bar on patient outcomes.

Oil leases bring jobs, strains to southeast NM

LOVINGTON—The 61-mile drive on US 82 from Artesia to this southeast New Mexico town crosses the heart of the Permian Basin oil field’s extension into the state. Pump rigs bob like great iron dinosaurs come to life, and the smell of petroleum fills the air. Flare pipes burn off natural gas and methane like fire-breathing dragons. It’s the scent of economic opportunity for some, the stench of impending danger to others. Industry experts and environmentalists agree on one thing: the September 2018 sale of nearly $1 billion in federal leases has set off one of the greatest oil booms in American history and has overwhelmed everything from the region’s highway to its housing supply.

Lujan Grisham’s choice of Education Secretary will send big message

In the coming days, governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham will take the first major step to fulfill her sweeping campaign promises on education – appointing a secretary to lead New Mexico’s troubled Public Education Department. Her choice will speak volumes – not only about her approach to education but also about her commitment to reform in a state that is primed for change. With a Democratic majority in both chambers of the Legislature, the governor-elect is in a position to address what many regard as New Mexico’s gravest problem: the fact that it sits at rock bottom in national rankings of student achievement. The state is under court order to fix a school funding system that was struck down as unconstitutional for its failure to provide adequate resources for at-risk students. So the choice of the new secretary will speak worlds about the degree to which Lujan Grisham intends to follow through on her pledge to “build a Pre-K-through-grade-12 education system that works for every single student and family.”

Hospital competition leaves kids in the lurch

The two pediatric heart doctors made for an odd couple at the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee: Bill Stein in his conservative gray suit and Jon Love with his blond ponytail, three earrings and shiny blue blazer – both testifying to their desire to work together. Their respective employers had been in open – at times cutthroat – competition for years. The result has been a health system in which very sick kids are more likely to be sent out of state than two miles down the road to the competitor. Stein, 42, who is employed by Presbyterian Healthcare Services, is the state’s sole pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. Love, 56, is the lone pediatric interventional cardiologist at the University of New Mexico. Together, the specialists put forward a simple answer that pediatricians and parents of medically fragile children have been longing to hear: collaboration.

Oh Susana! How governor’s popularity eroded

In 2010, three Western states elected governors who immediately generated national buzz. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, was the first Latino elected governor of Nevada. John Hickenlooper, who campaigned as a Democratic centrist in the midst of a Tea Party wave, was elected in Colorado. And in New Mexico, Republican Susana Martinez became the nation’s first Latina governor. All three proved popular in their first terms and easily won re-election.

On her watch: Governor-driven understaffing keeps N.M.’s kids at risk

The Roundhouse, January 2011: Flanked by colorful bouquets, a pink and white corsage pinned to her dark blue suit, Gov. Susana Martinez invoked the blossoming of a new era for New Mexico in her first State of the State address. She was the nation’s first Latina governor, soon to be named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. She had a plan for New Mexico and intended to execute it with a prosecutor’s precision. Her message: New Mexico was in a state of financial crisis. “No more shell games,” she announced to applause.

New Mexico’s home visiting puzzle

Despite strong evidence that home visiting promotes healthy families and children, state officials have diverted millions of dollars from the program in order to fund child care assistance, according to documents obtained by Searchlight New Mexico. Since 2016, the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) has moved a total of nearly $12 million earmarked for home visiting into child care assistance, saying the reallocation is necessary to meet the rising costs of child care. Among all the early childhood programs, child care assistance is the state flagship, helping tens of thousands of working New Mexico families care for their children. Officials shifted the funds from one pot to another because the state’s network of home-visiting providers, on the whole, failed to spend all the available money. “There’s a misconception out there that because we’re focused on childcare assistance, we’re not focused on home visiting, and that’s not true at all,” CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said.