SANTA FE -- The state Children, Youth and Families Department reflected this week on the recent senseless deaths of several children in the state and joins New Mexico in mourning the losses of bright lights in our shared community.
In the first months of the new state administration, the department has been working diligently on reforms and improvements that will better serve children and families across the state. The horrific abuse visited upon children in Albuquerque and Farmington in recent weeks is a stark reminder of the work still to do, CYFD Secretary Brian Blalock said.
“As our agency continues to undergo a transformation and seeks to rebuild after years of cuts and neglect, CYFD staff remain unequivocally committed to making New Mexico a place where all children, especially our most vulnerable children, can live in safety and comfort and ultimately lead fulfilling lives,” Secretary Blalock said. “We grieve the recent deaths. We, as a new leadership team, are constantly looking to learn from the mistakes of the past. The safety and welfare of the children and other victims is and will always be our first priority.”
CYFD is in regular contact with leadership at the city of Albuquerque and with the Albuquerque Police Department as the state agency builds better practices to ensure vulnerable children do not slip through any potential cracks in inter-agency communication. City and police leadership have provided consistent support to CYFD as the agencies build on a renewed commitment to collaboration so as to better support children and families.
CYFD will continue to work alongside local and state investigators to provide immediate support for any other children involved in these recent traumatic events.
The agency is continually re-evaluating past practices and entrenched departmental concerns. Among the high-priority items CYFD staff have been addressing in recent weeks:
One longtime issue that has plagued the department is wait times for the Statewide Central Intake (SCI) system, #SAFE.
Peak wait times just last week were unacceptably counted in hours. Waits have now been reduced to generally the twenty minute range during periods of the heaviest call volume.
“Reducing wait times as we have, even during our busiest hours, will allow our investigators to get into homes more quickly,” Deputy Secretary Terry Locke said. “As always, we encourage anyone to report potential abuse or neglect by calling #SAFE.”
New Mexico residents can call #SAFE (#7233) from their cell phone or 855-333-SAFE.
Off-peak wait times are even lower via a new triage system instituted by the department.
The triage system allows callers to speak to an actual human more quickly, and the department is instituting schedule changes and using different technology to allow CYFD offices across the state to help carry the burden of new cases.
The maximum wait time for calls is expected to continue to improve as these changes and policies are implemented.
Children’s Mental Health
The Behavioral Healthcare Collaborative, a group of 15 state agencies all working to better our children’s mental health, met Thursday in Santa Fe with some major recommendations for bettering psychiatric care.
Focusing on early screening, diagnoses and treatment, the goal is to provide juveniles with appropriate care as needed. The agencies are standing together to consider and understand trauma and its fallout, while giving investigators more resources to intervene in the best possible way.
“There is no wrong door to open as we enhance our safety net,” Secretary Blalock said. “Mental health care services are scarce throughout the state, and we have been tasked with increasing their availability. Crisis services, community-based treatment and other options will be rolled out to keep families close together as they deal with the unexpected.”
The Collaborative is also considering ways to rebuild the state’s mental health care workforce.
“New Mexico’s kids were dealt a heavy blow when over a dozen healthcare providers were closed without notice in 2013. We are committed to contributing every way we can to rebuilding of the network of available doctors, therapists, and counselors throughout the state,” Blalock said.
In addition to encouraging New Mexicans to call #SAFE, CYFD would like to emphasize that certain state child care services and free home visits can be accessed at pulltogether.org
As part of Child Abuse Awareness Month, CYFD officials will be out in the community attending the 3rd annual March Against Child Abuse at Bataan Memorial Park, 3439 Lomas Blvd, NE. The march begins at noon Saturday.