The state is launching a Safe Sleep New Mexico campaign to share information with new parents and caregivers about safe sleeping practices for newborns to reduce the number of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. With 43 babies who died in 2021 because of SUID, the syndrome accounted for nearly 20 percent of infant deaths in New Mexico in 2021. The deaths are often caused by accidental suffocation due to unsafe sleep practices, such as babies sleeping on their stomachs, sharing an adult bed, sleeping on the couch or in a car seat with soft toys or bedding. The Safe Sleep New Mexico campaign will try to educate the public through outreach to expand community-based promotion of safe sleep practices and promote resources to improve safe sleep environments. Multiple state agencies coordinated to develop the campaign along with numerous community partners.
New Mexico has 360 more repeat child maltreatment cases annually than the national average. The interim Legislative Finance Committee heard a presentation by New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Acting Secretary Teresa Casados on the child protective services division within CYFD on Tuesday. The LFC and CYFD provided a report on repeat child maltreatment. New Mexico is higher than the national average. Casados said one goal of the department is to change that.
As part of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2023 executive order to transform the Children, Youth and Families Department, the department rolled out a new dashboard during a press conference on Tuesday. The dashboard can be found on CYFD’s new website, https://www.togetherwethrivenm.org/. It is one way the department is trying to be more accountable. Lujan Grisham issued an executive order earlier this year to make systemic change to an agency that has been rocked by allegations of neglect to abuse under its watch in recent years. Earlier this month, a new CYFD advisory council met with members of the press and the public to discuss how the council and the department would meet the mandates of the executive order.
The Children, Youth and Family Department Advisory Council met with the public and press on Thursday to highlight how the department and the council intend to meet the mandates of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order intended to improve the department. In her February executive order, Lujan Grisham called CYFD a “system that is fundamentally broken.” After scandals rocked the department in recent years, Lujan Grisham named retired New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Vigil to head the department in 2021. But Vigil stepped down this spring after repeated allegations came to light of significant child abuse under CYFD’s watch. Vigil is now on the advisory council along with a group of five others and CYFD Interim Secretary Teresa Casados, who is Lujan Grisham’s chief operating officer. Casados is filling that role while the department conducts a national search to replace Vigil.
A former Public Employees Retirement Association trustee has filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s chief operating officer, claiming Teresa Casados pressured her into voting for a pension reform bill she opposed.
Claudia Armijo, an attorney, claims Casados last year prodded her to take part in voting to endorse a state Senate bill Lujan Grisham strongly backed as a measure to eventually pull the state’s pension system out of deep debt. In 2020, the system had an estimated $6.6 billion in unfunded liability.
Armijo said Casados never outright told her to vote in support of the measure, but felt an implicit threat that she would lose her job if she didn’t. A board trustee is supposed to be independent of politics and vote according to a proposal’s merits or flaws, Armijo said.
“It’s very inappropriate of her to even order me to vote,” Armijo said in a phone interview. “What she did was improper.”
Casados’ office didn’t respond to attempts to seek comment.
Armijo said she was notified that the State Ethics Commission will investigate her complaint.
She said she decided to go public with her complaint because she is concerned about the governor pushing House Bill 162, which would change the pension board from elected trustees to political appointees.
That would enable the governor and other politicians to handpick board members who would do their bidding, even if it runs counter to the pensioners’ interests, Armijo argued. That would eliminate trustees who would object to proposals, as she did, she said.
“This is a power grab for all the wrong reasons,” she said.
Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s spokeswoman, dismissed Armijo’s claims about Casados and the governor seeking to control the pension board.
“The allegations are thoroughly unsubstantiated,” Sackett wrote in an email.
Armijo said Casados did something she had never seen during her four years as a board trustee: She relayed a message to Armijo’s supervisor to call her.
On the phone, Casados told Armijo the bill was important to the governor, so she needed to vote.
“She certainly was not telling me to vote against it,” Armijo said.