Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two bills on Thursday that impact student health: one bill codifies School-Based Health Centers into state statute and the other will make free menstrual products available in every public school. HB 134, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, requires a menstrual product dispensary in every girl’s bathroom in every public elementary, middle and high school and one placed in one boy’s bathroom in each school. The products will be free and several young women spoke during the legislative session, testifying during committee hearings about the need for these products to eliminate shame and help students stay focused on their studies and school sports. SB 397, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, does not make any changes to school-based health centers, but it does codify them into state statute to prevent the possibility that they could be eliminated based on political whim in the future.
School-based health centers have been in existence in New Mexico for 25 years. The majority receive funding through the New Mexico Department of Health and DOH helps with logistics, but the local school districts determine if they want one and, if they do, what sorts of services are provided and which provider the school contracts with.
A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers into state statute passed the House floor by a 40-25 vote Wednesday night after hours of debate. SB 397, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The bill does not change anything about School-Based Health Centers which have already been in existence in New Mexico for the last 25 years. There are 79 School-Based Health Centers in the state and 54 of them are currently funded by the Department of Health. The bill generated considerable debate on the House floor with Republicans expressing concern over the right of young people to consent to their own healthcare.
The House Education Committee passed the bill to codify School-Based Health Centers into state statute by a party line vote of 8-to-4 on Monday. SB 397, School-Based Health Centers, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, would not change the way School-Based Health Centers already operate in the state. The local school district as well as the individual school determine if the school will have a School-Based Health Center and decide what provider the school will contract with. Republicans have expressed concern over this bill, saying that parents do not receive notification for reproductive healthcare and that the districts do not have local control. Rodriguez said she is also concerned about local control and the bill does not reduce a district’s or a school’s ability to choose which provider the school contracts with or what services the provider provides.
A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers, which have been serving students for 25 years, passed the state Senate chamber on Monday. SB 397 passed the state Senate 26 to 11 after lengthy debate on the floor. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, said it was a simple bill that did not fundamentally change how the health center currently operate. “This does nothing more than codify School-Based Health Centers. They are not statutorily protected.
A bill that would codify School-Based Health Centers passed theSenate Health and Public Affairs Committee on a 6-1 party vote on Wednesday. SB 397, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, would codify into law School-Based Health Centers, which have been providing primary and behavioral health care to children in New Mexico for 25 years. State Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, asked how School-Based Health Centers help the LGBTQ community. Nancy Rodriguez, executive director of the Alliance of School-Based Health Centers (no relation to state Sen. Rodriguez) said that what services each School-Based Health Center provides depends on the school district, but she said they all provide primary and behavioral health. “They have a safe space through the PED and provide individual counseling,” the executive director said.
Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra listened to youth behavioral health professionals at a roundtable discussion held on Wednesday at Arrowhead Early College High School in Las Cruces. Luján and Becerra both made general remarks but mostly listened to the local professionals talk about challenges they see facing youth in New Mexico. Dan Green, the state survey epidemiologist supervisor, said that according to 2019 data, 40.4 percent of New Mexico children experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. He said that is higher than national trends. According to the 2019 data, 50.7 percent of girls in New Mexico were likely to experience sadness or hopelessness compared to 30.3 percent of New Mexico boys.
Although the media began focusing on the menstrual product shortage in recent weeks, grassroots organization Indigenous Women Rising have been focused on the shortage since at least the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rachel Lorenzo, Mescalero Apache/Laguna Pueblo/Xicana and co-founder of IWR, said that when Tribal governments began giving out COVID care packages at the start of the pandemic, IWR assessed the gaps and noticed items missing that affected menstruating individuals and babies. Lorenzo, who uses they/them pronouns, said IWR began supplying, free of charge, menstrual cups, discs and period panties to Indigenous menstruating people in the U.S. and Canada. “IWR started piloting a program to send reusable menstrual products to Indigenous people who are interested and [for whom] it might be out of reach financially and geographically,” they said. Lorenzo said this is not a “catchall” solution and the price problem remains persistent.
Hed: Reproductive justice advocates say abortion ban repeal ‘next year’
Many reproductive justice advocates said their biggest disappointment of the 2020 legislative session is that the 1969 New Mexico law banning abortion is still on the books. But some in the Respect NM Women Coalition, a group of reproductive justice advocates and organizations, say ‘next year.’
“We’re looking forward to repealing the state’s archaic 1969 abortion ban in 2021,” said Joan Lamunyon Sanford, executive director of NM Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The nonprofit she leads is part of the coalition. While the law is still on the books, it is not currently enforceable because of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision. The law is worrisome for many because the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Louisiana law, June Medical Services v. Russo (formerly June Medical Services v. Gee) requiring abortion clinics in that state to be affiliated with a hospital and have admitting privileges.
Five health clinics located in public schools will see a complete stripping of their state funding, likely leading all five to shut down. The cuts, announced by the state Department of Health earlier this month, come as part of several money-tightening measures placed in the state budget this year amid declining oil and gas revenues. The budget, passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, cut $300,000 for school-based health clinics. Now critics are panning state health department officials for a lack of transparency in how they decided to issue all of the cuts to a handful of 53 such clinics across the state. “The criteria they used is still unknown to us,” state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said in an interview.
Among the many cuts in this year’s coming state budget signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Susana Martinez are $300,000 for school-based health clinics. As NM Political Report wrote earlier this week, the 53 health clinics in public schools across the state funded by the state Department of Health were facing the cuts in the upcoming budget, which Martinez signed into law on Tuesday. The clinics, which are located on school grounds, offer free health care on the spot for children and adolescents, who in New Mexico statistically tend not to receive care. As governor, Martinez has the authority to line-item veto items in the budget, including the $300,000 of cuts to school-based clinics. But when she signed the budget on Tuesday, she left in the cuts to clinics, which while comparatively small compared to other cuts in the budget are still enough to completely shut off state funding for six school-based health clinics.