Medicaid Strains New Mexico State Finances, Health Services Set Wait Time Standard

Sep 15, 2017

Indian Health Service Sets Standards For Patient Wait TimesThe Associated Press

The Indian Health Service has set agency standards for patient wait times more than a year after being criticized by a government watchdog for doing a poor job tracking them.

The agency says the wait time for a primary care visit will be 28 days and 48 hours for urgent care, on average.

Chief Medical Officer Capt. Michael Toedt says the standards are meant to improve access to health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found wait times at direct-run IHS facilities were reviewed inconsistently or not at all.

The report issued last year said some tribal members waited months to see a physician.

Tribes and tribal entities that run health care facilities under contract with IHS set their own standards.

Feds Announce $62 Million For Navajo Water PipelineThe Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Interior says it's awarded a nearly $62 million contract for construction of a water pipeline between two northwestern New Mexico communities.

The pipeline is part of the greater Navajo-Gallup Water Supply project, which has been in the works for several years in an effort to get running water to rural and tribal communities that don't have it.

The contract for a Roanoke, Texas, company will include 28 miles of pipeline between Naschitti and Twin Lakes. Construction is scheduled to start in January and end in March 2020.

The overall project aims to create a sustainable water supply for Navajo Nation and Jicarilla Apache residents and Gallup. It'll consist of 300 miles of pipeline, two water treatment plants, 19 pumping plants and several water storage tanks.

Medicaid Strains New Mexico State FinancesAssociated Press

Medicaid health care spending is expected to put an increased strain on New Mexico state finances in the coming fiscal year, even with generous federal provisions of the Obama administration left in place.

In documents released Thursday, the state Human Services Department that oversees Medicaid has requested an $84 million increase in general fund spending for the budget year that starts in July 2018.

The demands could make it more difficult for the state to sustain spending on courts, classrooms and universities. Congress may remove some of the pressure by extending support to the nationwide Children's Health Insurance Program.

New Mexico is on track to collect $25 million more in the coming fiscal year than it currently spends, as surging oil production pulls state government out of a budget crisis.

3 New Mexico Tribes Get Federal Housing DollarsAssociated Press

Three New Mexico Native American communities will be sharing more than $2 million in federal housing grants.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding grants to the Jicarilla Apache Housing Authority, the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority and the housing authority at Cochiti Pueblo.

With a need for more affordable housing in tribal communities, officials say most of this year's project winners will use their grants to build homes or to rehabilitate dilapidated housing with an aim toward ending homelessness and relieving crowding.

The Jicarilla Apache will use $825,000 to construct four energy efficient homes.

At Ohkay Owingeh, the housing authority will use $825,000 to rehabilitate 41 multi-family affordable housing units.

Cochiti is being awarded more than $600,000 to rehabilitate 20 homes.

Iffy Endorsements, Donations Marks Albuquerque Mayor's Race - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Questionable endorsements and eyebrow-raising donations are clouding Albuquerque's open mayoral race.

Candidates are facing scrutiny for endorsements from controversial former police officers, and campaign donations have drawn complaints.

State Auditor Tim Keller's mayoral campaign page boasts endorsements from former Albuquerque Police Chief Sam Baca and former police sergeant Paul Heh.

Baca's troubled tenure was marked by accusations of keeping "intelligence files" on political opponents. Heh was connected to a police department's overtime scandal and has been linked to a blog that posts expletive-laced attacks on city workers.

Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smothermon recently endorsed candidate Dan Lewis and said he wouldn't "support the homosexual agenda."

Keller and candidate Wayne Johnson both are facing complaints about campaign donations.

Candidate Brian Colón also is facing criticism for working for a law firm that defends officers involved in shootings.

Environmentalists Sue To Block Border Wall With Mexico - By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

Three advocacy groups have sued the federal government to block construction of a border wall with Mexico, alleging that the Trump administration overstepped its authority by waiving environmental reviews.

The lawsuit filed Thursday by the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense Fund seeks to prevent construction of wall prototypes in San Diego before it begins. It also asks that plans for replacement fencing in San Diego and Calexico, California, be halted.

The claims largely mirror those in a lawsuit filed by another advocacy group, the Center for Biological Diversity.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it won't comment on pending litigation. The government has waived environmental reviews seven times under a 2005 law to speed construction of border barriers, including twice under Trump.

Flags To Fly At Half-Staff In New Mexico To Honor DomeniciAssociated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez has ordered flags to fly at half-staff around New Mexico on Friday and Saturday in honor of former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.

Domenici died Wednesday morning of complications from abdominal surgery at age 85.

He was New Mexico's longest serving senator, in office from 1973 to 2008.

Domenici announced in October 2007 that he wouldn't seek a seventh term because he had been diagnosed with an incurable brain disorder, frontotemporal lobar degeneration.

A public celebration of the longtime lawmaker's life will be held at Isotopes Stadium in Albuquerque on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Martinez issued an executive order Thursday that flags are to be flown at half-staff from sunrise Friday to sunset Saturday.

Forest Service Spends Record $2B Battling Forest Fires - By Matthew Daly, Associated Press

The U.S. Forest Service has spent more than $2 billion battling forest fires that are blackening the American West. That's a new record for the agency and marks the first time wildfire spending by the Forest Service has topped $2 billion.

Wildfires have ravaged the West this summer with 64 large fires burning across 10 states as of Thursday, including 21 fires in Montana and 18 in Oregon. In all, 48,607 wildfires have burned nearly 13,000 square miles in one of the nation's worst fire seasons.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the severe fire season means officials "end up having to hoard all of the money that is intended for fire prevention, because we're afraid we're going to need it to actually fight fires."

Forecast: New Mexico Prisons On Track To Exceed Capacity - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico's prisons are nearing capacity, putting more pressure on state lawmakers to find solutions as they consider a host of criminal justice reforms ahead of the next legislative session.

The New Mexico Sentencing Commission presented its latest prison population forecast to the legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee on Wednesday in Santa Fe.

The forecast suggests the need for beds will grow partly due to an increase in parole violations and the high percentage of serious violent offenders who must serve more time before becoming eligible for release.

The report indicates the number of women in prison is expected to surpass capacity within a year and space will run out for male inmates in about two years.

Sentencing Commission executive director Linda Freeman told lawmakers New Mexico doesn't have enough halfway houses and other transitional programs.

Writ Claims Albuquerque Judges Violate Case Dismissal RuleAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A writ filed in a New Mexico District Court claims judges in Albuquerque routinely violate the 10-day rule that requires case dismissal if prosecutors fail to formally file charges.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that two men, whose cases remained open for weeks despite lacking formal charges, filed the writ on Monday accusing Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court judges of the rule violation.

The petitioners' attorney Alan Wagman says a pending felony case, especially one left open, can wreck defendants' lives.

The Attorney General's Office is representing the judges, and a spokesman says they would review legal options when they are properly served with the pleadings.

The petition asks the District Court to direct the Albuquerque judges to immediately follow the rule.

Santa Fe Approves Ban On Traveling Wild, Exotic Animal ActsAssociated Press

Santa Fe will no longer allow wild and exotic animal acts due to an approved amendment to the city's animal welfare ordinance.

The City Council and mayor approved the amendment on Wednesday in an 8-1 vote after an hour of public testimony that was largely in support.

The amendment prohibits shows of wild or exotic animals performing tricks, giving rides or participating in the amusement of a live audience. Animal exhibitions for educational purposes are excluded from the ban as well as common domesticated animals such as cats, dogs, cattle and horses.

City Councilor Signe Lindell who sponsored the proposal says that animals forced to entertain are subjected to abuse.

Opponents say they fear that the move could eventually lead to bans on other animal-related events like rodeos.

Cibola County Eyes $2.14M Contract To House InmatesGallup Independent, Associated Press

The Cibola County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with CoreCivic Inc. to house the county's inmates upon closure of the Cibola County Detention Center.

The Gallup Independent reports Attorney Dave Pato, who represents the county, says the three-year contract requires a minimum bed count of 120 inmates, at $54 per bed per day, and allows for 20 roundtrip transports per week.

The contract also includes basic medical, but does not include any hospitalization costs.

If an inmate requires an out-of-facility examination at the hospital, the county would be billed for the additional costs.

The total projected costs are $2.14 million for nine months, counting transports and the transfer of eight detention center staff to the sheriff's office to handle booking tasks not covered in the contract.

New Mexico University Sending Team To Texas To Provide HelpAssociated Press

A state university in New Mexico is sending a 40-member team of faculty, students and staff to Texas to help in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The team is led by Beth Massaro, a social work professor who says "there's been a tremendous response" from within the university.

Massaro says the team will travel Sept. 27 to the coastal community of Rockport, Texas, to volunteer at donation centers, help with cleanup efforts and other provide other aid.

Massaro visited Rockport after the storm and she says damage was staggering with many homes and businesses destroyed and numerous snapped-off utility poles and downed trees.

She says the team will camp on the property of a Highlands professor.

New Mexico Highlands is headquartered in Las Vegas, New Mexico.