By Rebecca Dow, New Mexico Representative, District 38
Earlier this month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual “Kids Count” report on the status of child well-being in each state. The news for New Mexico was disheartening.
While our state showed improvement on most measures, we are not keeping up with other states. Once again, we came in at 49th overall, placing ahead of just one state, Mississippi.
Reports like this one motivated me to start AppleTree Educational Center in Truth and Consequences back in 1999. I believed New Mexico could do better, and I felt that focusing on early childhood education was the key to helping our state's children overcome any circumstances.
AppleTree serves hundreds of families with children prenatal through twenty-four in Sierra County each year. Our evidence-based programs have positively impacted many key health and wellbeing indicators for our county. More kids are entering school ready, avoiding risky behavior, graduating on-time, and going to college. Yet in 2015, Sierra County become the poorest county in the state.
My organization and others like it do everything we can to give kids a good start in life, and I am proud of our work. But I also recognize that we will not see the results of our efforts for another generation, and there are urgent challenges facing New Mexico that we must fix now.
After working in the field of early childhood and family support services for the past 24 years, I am convinced that until we address the root causes of poverty in New Mexico, we will not be able to address the effects of poverty. Our state will continue to struggle until we strengthen our economy and improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans.
Too many families in our state are living on the edge. 141,000 children in New Mexico - 29 percent - live in poverty. There are 22,659 families in our state that do not have a parent in the workforce. In 2014, 111,000 kids experienced one instance of food insecurity meaning that for at least one day that year, their families were not sure they would be able to put food on their tables.
Meeting the full needs of children obliges us to create healthy families, safe environments, and thriving communities. We cannot build a better future for our children unless we create more economic opportunities for New Mexicans.
Much of this work will require common-sense policies to take the shackles off the state's economy. For example, our tax code is a mess. Its industry carve-outs benefit the big guys while our mom and pop businesses are stuck paying the bill. We also have too many redundant regulations and overlapping governing authorities that unnecessarily increase the cost of doing business in New Mexico.
Changing New Mexico's economic climate requires us to make every operation of state government efficient and effective. To increase business activity in our state, we need to make it easier to do business.
Fortunately, there are some programs already in place to help businesses grow and thrive. Efforts like the Local Economic Development Act and the Job Training Incentive Program can help businesses train new workers, expand operations, and help New Mexicans create their own opportunities.
Over the next few weeks, I will highlight some of these programs, explain what they do, and provide contact information so you can learn more about what they have to offer. Many communities have used these programs to create jobs and new energy in their area, and I know we can duplicate some of these successes here.
These programs are a start. But if we want to change the long-term fortunes of our state, we must shift our focus on policies that will increase hope and opportunity. Too often we center on treating the outcomes of poverty rather than curing poverty itself. Now is the time to take strong actions and improve New Mexico's economy before we fall further behind. We cannot wait another twenty years for things to get better.
"President Trump's plan to fix the problems created by the Obama administration in Cuba is a much-needed first step toward true reform. The facts are undeniable: in return for President Obama's unilateral concessions, the Cuban dictatorship has stepped up the oppression of its people, drastically ramping up religious intimidation and political repression. By making it more difficult for the Castro family and the military to fund their reign of terror and intolerance, the Trump administration's new policy better advances American national and regional security interests, while sending a clear message to the Castro family, the regime and its cronies: business as usual will no longer be tolerated by the United States government."
This tank car has been placed by the railroad employees in Hurley, NM.
Most graffiti on the cars are on the lower portions of the cars. This stinks as an inside job by employees who have access, and I believe it has been placed here on purpose.
I tried to report it to our local police and the town clerk.
They informed me that it was private property and they couldn't do anything about it unless the company reported it.
After the mass shooting in Virginia earlier this week, I think the company should paint over the sign and move the car.
I just think we should have more respect for the office of the people we elect to represent us. Such a shame.
[Editor's Note: The offending word has been partially blocked out.]
By Senator Howie Morales, Democrat from Silver City
June 13, 2017
Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, is often quoted for saying “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.” This has been used as motivation in all forms of contests to gain an edge on competitors. Most people do not realize, however, what Coach Lombardi actually meant. It was not about winning at all costs—ignoring the human spirit or looking at the scoreboard as the ultimate measure of success. In an interview late in life, Lombardi said about his winning quote that “I wished I'd never said the thing... I meant the effort. I meant having a goal. I sure didn't mean for people to crush human values and morality."
In the world of corporate-driven education ‘reform', which finds its ultimate goal in free market profits, the human aspect of learning and leading has become equal to “winning” as measured by a standardized test. This is the kind of ‘reform' we see in New Mexico today. But the most effective strategies for educating children are characterized by collaboration, using the best practices available, thoughtful planning, open communication, and especially kindness and a spirit of compassion.
As the Governor considers a permanent secretary of education, the job description ought to focus on an individual who is capable of inspiring students, staff and parental engagement, developing leaders, improving performance, transforming our culture of education, and even love. Yes love, because love is what will allow this individual to recognize that humans thrive when systems of support exist in balance.
The support system must address the mental, physical, spiritual, cultural, and social needs of our teachers and students. It must be centered in a holistic approach to learning and excellence. To ignore the total needs of our educational community is equivalent to treating cancer with a band-aid. Our state can no longer afford an out-of-touch, one-size-fits-all approach to education leadership. It is time we started treating people like people, not as data inputs—only then will New Mexico start winning in education.
New Mexico today ranks 50th in student achievement, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The education policies of the last seven years were wrong, and a new direction is needed.
Secretary Hanna Skandera and Governor Martinez continually pushed data-driven policies that were unproven. There was far too much importance placed on relentless testing with standardized exams. Behind those approaches, coincidentally, stood powerful corporations who stood to profit from tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars.
Skandera blamed teachers for the failure. But New Mexico has deep poverty that is spread broadly across almost every community in our state. The connection between low student achievement and poverty has been known since the 1960s. Yet she and the Governor acted as if it did not exist.
We hope the next secretary will reject the punitive approach to children who are not reading at grade level- particularly at third grade level—and the public shaming of schools that fall short. Yes, we all need accountability in life. But educating the next generation of New Mexicans is not a race in which each teacher is in competition with every other teacher. That approach is driving teachers out of the profession, contributing to the huge shortage of educators our schools face. Successful education should be about collaboration and cooperation.
It would be helpful if the next secretary of education is free of troubling conflicts of interest, such as sitting on the boards of for-profit corporations doing business in New Mexico, as Skandera did. It calls into question the motives behind policy preferences advocated by the Governor's administration.
We hope the next secretary will embrace the real change that many students urgently need, the kind of change that delivers improvement. We know what it looks like: three years of high-quality preschool for all kids beginning at the age of two and half; cutting class sizes in half for all children in elementary school, to create an environment like in expensive private schools; rich curriculum that fires the imagination and creativity of students and their teachers alike, and offering teachers excellent support and professional development rather than threatening and disrespecting them. Those are the policies that would get immediate and lasting results for students in a relatively poor state like ours.
A real love and appreciation for children doing their best to learn - that is what is needed. If New Mexico's future public education executive possesses that, he can do all the photo ops with kids he wants, and I will be perfectly fine with it.
Statement from Norbert Michel, Senior Research Fellow, Financial Regulations and Monetary Policy at The Heritage Foundation:
“The Dodd-Frank repeal bill that passed the House this afternoon is a giant leap forward in reining in out-of-control Washington regulations.
"In 2010, some in Washington tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people by claiming that the Dodd-Frank reforms would prevent another financial crisis - that claim was an outright lie.
"Dodd-Frank systemically ignored the actual causes of the last crisis and all but guaranteed a future one while leaving taxpayers on the hook for bailouts. The bill that passed today isn't perfect, but will go a long way to correcting the problems within our financial system, restraining bureaucrat regulators and preventing future bailouts with taxpayer money.”
For comprehensive colleges and universities (Western, Eastern New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands and Northern New Mexico) the Lottery Scholarship will pay $1,169 toward tuition, fees are not covered. The amount paid by the Lottery Scholarship is based on 60% of the overall average tuition of all comprehensive colleges and universities.
Here is how it affects the various schools:
School.....................Tuition............Not Covered by Scholarship..........Percent of tuition covered
The total amount paid by a student getting the Lottery Scholarship (reduced tuition plus fees):
School Total Paid by Student
From the above, you see that not every school has 60% of the tuition covered some get more and some get less because it's based on the average tuition of all schools. Since Western has the highest tuition its students on the Lottery Scholarship need to pay more than any of the other schools.
However, it appears that this reduction of the Lottery Scholarship will have less effect on Western because Western has only about 150 students on the Lottery Scholarship, about 7% of the undergraduates, the lowest in the state.
Silver City, NM
By Senator Mary Kay Papen, New Mexico Senate President Pro Tem
June 2, 2017
One of the great disappointments that remain since the 2017 legislative session ended is Governor Susana Martinez's veto of bipartisan legislation to protect Medicaid health providers who stand falsely accused of fraud by the State. Known as the Medicaid ‘due process' bill, Senate Bill 217 was killed with a ‘pocket' veto by the Governor. That's a fancy way of saying she never needed to offer an explanation why she chose to veto it - and she didn't. The results may be with us long after the session is forgotten.
Medicaid due process was common sense legislation. It simply would have guaranteed that in the future, any health care provider to Medicaid patients who stand accused of wrong-doing will receive the opportunity to review the allegations made against them, and the chance to respond in an administrative hearing or in district court.
Recent history proves that New Mexico needs those protections: they did not exist in 2013 when 15 non-profits and other behavioral health firms were accused and mostly put out of business by the Governor's administration. All were later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Attorney General, however.
Four years later we still witness the tragic consequences effecting countless at-risk children and adults in serious need of mental health treatment, but who are not receiving care. In many communities, these crucial health services for residents are withering away. Nearly all of the Arizona behavioral providers the Governor brought to New Mexico in the aftermath now have left. It is a terrible situation, and her veto has compounded it.
As citizens, we all have the right to due process if we are accused of wrongdoing. My legislation sought to ensure transparency and independent analysis in those situations when it is needed. What has happened to behavioral health in New Mexico must never occur again - not in behavioral health nor other areas of health care.
More than 30 percent of our residents today are eligible for Medicaid. Yet many healthcare professionals - primary care, general practitioners, nursing homes, dentists, and behavioral health - are reluctant to provide or expand services based on the state's behavioral health experience in the absence of ordinary due process protections. It raises the important question of whether residents will have access to healthcare. And there already are large gaps in access and coverage across our state. Many providers are understandably afraid to speak out about the situation for fear of being punished in some way by the State.
Also, even though the accused behavioral health providers were cleared by the Attorney General, the Governor's administration has never returned millions of dollars owed to them for services they performed. It is not something one would expect in the United States of America.
How many people with mental health disorders are going without treatment for their conditions today because of the disruption of services caused by the 2013 takeover? We don't really know, but you can bet it's a lot. Many of them are turning up in our jails. That is morally wrong.
Five years into the state's mental health care crisis, there is no interest from the Governor's Office to resolve it. All we got was a pocket veto and no explanation for it.
New Mexicans still deserve to know why the state's entire network of treatment for individuals struggling with mental illness was upended without any reasonable basis. We also need to know why the Governor vetoed due process protections that would have ensured it could not happen in the future. Most importantly, we still face the challenge of getting the state's behavioral health system back on its feet, delivering treatment to vulnerable children and adults.
Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, recently talked at a news conference about the challenges facing the VA. He spoke about such important issues as access to care, accountability, and the quality of care. Now I would like to tell you about what is happening within the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System (NMVAHCS), and what we are doing to improve health care services for our Veterans.
Since I arrived in Albuquerque in December 2014, I have made it a point to travel to every area where we serve Veterans with a community based outpatient clinic and listen to their concerns, ideas and often praises about their VA care. Near the top of our Veterans' issue list at every town hall has been patient appointment wait times. We take those concerns to heart, and have made significant investments in training, field reviews and enhanced scheduling practices to ensure improvement. We aggressively train and retrain all of our personnel responsible for scheduling patients to ensure that there is no confusion in scheduling procedures. We are the only VA medical center in New Mexico, a state with vast rural areas. We know that we will always face the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified medical providers. Our human resources staff is working diligently to fill openings as soon as possible in specific areas such as Podiatry, Orthopedics, Dermatology, and the Behavioral Health Care Line. For those of you who have required services in our Emergency Room, I want you to know that the cavalry is on the way. We recently hired five physicians and four advanced practitioners to beef up that staff.
We examine the quality of care in every area within our system, and we have made tremendous progress. In Ambulatory Care, for example, we have improved access in rural clinics through the use of telemedicine. In our Surgical Service, we have improved the surgical and post-operative management of cancer patients with the addition of cancer care nurse-coordinators. We also recently added a surgical uro-gynecology program, and expanded our cochlear implant program for profound hearing loss. Our Anesthesia Service is starting an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program this summer.
NMVAHCS' Research Service works hard to improve future health for New Mexico Veterans. Our new clinical trials unit and the VA Cooperative Studies Pharmacy bustle with studies that improve personalized medicine, PTSD treatments, pain, depression/suicide treatments, spinal cord injury treatments, Parkinson's disease treatments, heart disease treatments, and many of the other disorders. The Million Veteran Program (MVP) enrollment of nearly 10,000 New Mexico Veterans to date will help provide VA researchers with a rich resource of genetic, health, lifestyle, and military-exposure data collected from questionnaires, medical records, and genetic analyses.
I would like to offer more hope for the future with mention of some new construction projects. Our new, 15-bed, Community Living Center is nearing completion at our medical center's San Mateo entrance. A new Sleep Disorder Center, which is a Joint Incentive Fund Project with the U.S. Air Force, will house an eight-room, Sleep Study Lab near our Spinal Cord Injury Unit. Our new Acute Psychiatric Unit on the main hospital's sixth floor will have 10 beds, with the ability to convert six more rooms to private bed spaces a year after completion.
The VA is on a path to rebuilding trust with Veterans and other stakeholders, improving service delivery, focusing on Veteran outcomes, and setting the course for longer-term excellence and reform. We know we cannot reach that goal without the unfailing support we receive every day from the employees, volunteers and our community. Speaking of staff, throughout our system it is often a case of Veterans helping Veterans, because one third of our employees are Veterans. We are grateful for your support!
Andrew Welch, Director, New Mexico VA Health Care System
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