Lawsuit: State, managed care organizations not providing care to ‘most vulnerable’ children

Disability Rights New Mexico and three families filed a suit against the state and three managed care organizations for allegedly not providing necessary care to medically fragile children. The managed care organizations are New Mexico Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Presbyterian Health Plan and Western Sky Community Care. 

Medicaid is required to provide at-home care to severely disabled children whose ability to live at home is dependent upon trained nursing, the complaint states. Jesse Clifton, a lawyer with Disability Rights New Mexico, said the state has about 400 medically-fragile children, some of whom are not receiving any at-home nursing despite qualifying for it. He said he anticipates more families will join the lawsuit. The state is providing federal funds for that coverage, Clifton and Holly Mell, also a lawyer for Disability Rights New Mexico, told NM Political Report.

Abortion rights could play a key role in the race for southern New Mexico’s U.S. House seat 

With a Supreme Court decision expected this summer on the Mississippi anti-abortion law most court watchers believe will overturn or gut protections granted by Roe v. Wade, Democrats and Republicans could find abortion playing a large role in the upcoming race for U.S. House representation in southern New Mexico. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will deliver its decision on Dobbs v. Whole Women’s Health. Mississippi passed a law in 2018 that outlawed abortion after 15 weeks. The one abortion provider in the state offers abortion up to 16 weeks. The law is not currently in effect in Mississippi because the lower courts struck it down as unconstitutional, but Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to hear the state’s appeal.

The end of a Trump-era immigration policy potentially in jeopardy

Immigrant advocacy groups raised an alarm on Tuesday about the potential for Title 42, a Donald Trump-era policy that prohibits asylum seekers from crossing the U.S. border, to continue after May 23. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that it would end Title 42 by May 23. Many immigrant advocates hailed this as a step in the right direction by the Joe Biden administration, which campaigned on a more humane approach to migrants along the southern U.S. border. The Trump administration implemented Title 42 soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began. That administration claimed it was prohibiting individuals from crossing the southern border to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease but immigrant advocacy groups have called the policy racist and inflammatory.

CDC announces Trump-era policy prohibiting legal border crossing to end 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that the federal government will end the Trump-era policy that has prevented asylum seekers from entering the U.S.

The policy will end May 23. The Trump administration initiated Title 42 in the first few days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The policy prohibited undocumented individuals from entering the U.S. through a port of entry. At the time, Trump cited the spread of the respiratory disease as a reason to establish the policy but critics quickly condemned the action as racist and inflammatory. The Biden administration, which ran on eliminating or reversing many Trump-era policies, kept Title 42 in place after entering office, despite widespread criticism from immigrant advocacy groups.

Health department recommends booster shot for those who are 50+ or with certain health conditions

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends an additional COVID-19 booster for those who are over 50 years old and for immunocompromised people who are age 12 or older. The recommendation on Wednesday followed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation earlier in the week and applies to those who received a booster of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot at least four months ago. The booster shot would be of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which use mRNA. “Vaccines and boosters are both safe and free. The data clearly demonstrates that COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses protect individuals from both infection and severe outcomes,” Acting Department of Health Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. said.

Advocates call for end to Trump-era policy that prevents asylum seekers from crossing border

Monday marked the two-year anniversary of a policy by former President Donald Trump aimed to prevent asylum seekers from crossing the border during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some migrant advocates marked the anniversary by calling for President Joe Biden to end the policy. New Mexico Dream Team Co-Director Felipe Rodriguez told NM Political Report that asylum seekers waiting to enter the U.S. are mostly immigrants from Central America who are fleeing violence from organized crime, as well as other issues caused by political and economic instability and climate change. “Climate change is hitting Central America really bad,” he said. Rodriguez said climate change issues are making it harder for farmers to remain sustainable in Central America.

End of moratorium on evictions could lead to crisis, say family advocates

With the New Mexico Supreme Court’s pandemic-era inspired moratorium on evictions about to end, the court announced it will phase-in a statewide program to help tenants access money starting in April. But family advocates have said that approximately 80,000 renter households are at risk in the state for eviction. Divya Shiv, a research and policy analyst for New Mexico Voices for Children, told NM Political Report that the 43 percent of residents in the state reporting a high likelihood of eviction or foreclosure because they are not current on their rent or mortgage is higher than the national average, which is 35 percent. With the moratorium ending on evictions for tenants with unpaid rent, this could lead to a crisis of unhoused families in New Mexico, Shiv said. “Evictions are really harmful and it’s incredibly destabilizing for families and children,” she said.

Study: New Mexico has among highest rates for parental deaths due to COVID-19

New Mexico ranks as one of the states with the highest rates for parental deaths caused by the disease, with 341 children per 100,000 who have lost a caregiver due to COVID-19, according to a study 

A group called the Covid Collaborative, made up of experts in health and other fields, produced a study on the mental health challenges U.S. children face after losing a caregiver due to the pandemic. Among other recommendations, the collaborative says that to identify and help the children who have lost a caregiver due to COVID-19 with both behavioral health needs and financial aid, a COVID-Bereaved Children Fund should be implemented. For children who have lost a caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaborative recommends the federal government create a $2 billion to $3 billion bereavement fund. According to the study, 167,000 children nationally lost a parent or other caregiver due to the respiratory disease. New Mexico has experienced 7,116 reported deaths due to COVID-19 over the last two years, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

NM Supreme Court rules citizen grand juries on state emergency orders are invalid

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a handful of citizen-initiated grand jury petitions filed against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in response to her public emergency orders are “facially invalid.” 

In the order directing several lower courts to dismiss the citizen-initiated grand jury petitions, Chief Justice Michael Vigil wrote that the state’s mechanism that allows citizens to call for a grand jury for public officials who violate state law does not apply to the governor’s COVID-19 public health orders. 

“This Court previously has held that [Lujan Grisham] acted lawfully and within the scope of her executive authority when she declared a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and delegated power to the Secretary of Health to issue further emergency orders to protect public health and safety,” Vigil wrote. 

The order instructed lower courts to deny such grand jury petitions as they “only describe lawful, noncriminal activity.”  

The New Mexico Constitution allows citizens to file petitions asking a state district court to convene a grand jury to look into possible criminal activity of an elected official. In the order, the state supreme court also asked a judicial committee to consider rule changes that would make the citizen grand jury process more transparent as the current process involves sealed and confidential proceedings. Lujan Grisham’s office filed the supreme court petition last fall, asking justices to weigh in on the validity of the handful of grand jury petitions filed in state district courts aiming to investigate alleged criminal actions in issuing the public health orders. Since Lujan Grisham started issuing emergency public health orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several state supreme court petitions have been filed challenging those orders. The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the governor in all of the cases they have issued opinions on. 

Indigenous New Mexicans speak to Congress about missing and murdered Native women

Two New Mexico Native women spoke before a U.S. Congress subcommittee on Thursday about the problems that contribute to the high numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives. Angel Charley, of the Laguna Pueblo and executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, testified before the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties during a hearing on the Neglected Epidemic of Missing BIPOC Women and Girls. She spoke about the failures of the U.S. government to stop what she called “a crisis” of missing and murdered Indigenous individuals. According to the 2020 New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force Report, New Mexico has the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous cases in the U.S., although it has the fifth largest Indigenous population in the nation. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said that according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the total number of missing Indigenous women is unknown due to a lack of data.