89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

MON: Health secretary concerned about oversight of disabilities program, + More

Amanda Loman
Oregon Capital Chronicle, oregoncapitalchronicle.com
New Mexico Health Secretary Patrick Allen is concerned about the state's oversight of a program that uses private providers for home and community-based services for people with developmental disabilities.

N.M. health boss concerned oversight of disabilities program - Associated Press

New Mexico's health secretary said he's concerned about the state's oversight of a program that uses private providers for home and community-based services for people with developmental disabilities but is being investigated on allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation of program participants.

Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen told The New Mexican that the majority of private providers in the program do a "marvelous job" and care deeply about their clients, but said a small number of providers aren't doing what's needed.

"I think I'm increasingly concerned that we've not been doing the job we need to do to make sure that all our clients have fabulous providers and are getting the services and care that they need," said Allen, who was appointed health secretary in January.

An investigation of alleged abuse and neglect involving a developmentally disabled person was launched after the case was brought to the state's attention on March 1. The state started to reexamine past incidents of suspected abuse and neglect of disabled clients, including three in which a client died and the state terminated contracts with four providers in the Albuquerque area. The allegations also prompted a review of the entire developmentally disabled waiver system, which is meant to offer an alternative to institutional care.

As of noon on Friday, state workers had conducted in-person wellness checks on 4,654 of the 6,815 in the program and identified 68 sites with possible concerns.

At 26 of those sites, the concerns dealt mostly with home repairs, damages or other environmental issues.

But at the remaining 42, the site visits resulted in reported allegations of potential abuse, neglect and exploitation of some of the most vulnerable — and sometimes voiceless — people in New Mexico.

Each of the 68 incidents of concern identified so far is being fully investigated, officials said.

"Our staff have reported to me visits they've been involved in where, like, a parent or guardian or someone has said, 'This is the first time anybody from the agency has ever visited,'" Allen said.

Details on the case of abuse that triggered the in-person wellness checks have not been made public, and Allen declined to provide an update on the disabled client who suffered severe and life-threatening injuries, or even say if the person is still alive or recovering.

"I'm afraid I just really can't right now at the advice of various investigators that are pursuing this," Allen told the newspaper.

New Mexico governor signs over 200 bills into law - Source New Mexico

The end of 2023’s legislative session led to over 240 bills getting through the Roundhouse. By the end of Friday, the last day for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign legislation, more than 200 measures from the 60-day Legislative session became law.

All the pieces of legislation that passed the Roundhouse and arrived at Lujan Grisham’s desk are listed below, sorted into different categories. Everything she signed is marked with an asterisk (*).

Bills she didn’t sign will be pocket vetoed.


House Bill 505 would allocate $1.2 billion across thousands of capital outlay projects. Normally an uncontroversial piece of legislation, many Republicans lawmakers voted against the bill because it includes $10 million for a reproductive health care clinics.


Lujan Grisham signed legislation into law on April 5 that aims to strengthen tribal early education to better reflect standards for Native American students. This legislation is part of the Tribal Remedy Framework which presents solutions for the state to meet education reform mandates from the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit. House Bill 148 requires that the N.M. Early Childhood Education and Care Department enter agreements with tribal communities, when requested by the tribal entity, about youth education programs, using culturally and linguistically relevant standards. It opens up avenues for tribal governments to access state funds for Pre-K programs.



Millions would be allocated for environment and cultural conservation efforts among different state agencies if the governor signs Senate Bill 9 into law. This bipartisan effort would create a Conservation Legacy Permanent Fund, which could eventually funnel money into a Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund for environmental work.

This bill that once would have stopped prescribed burns during springtime completely is now a measure to ban them when the National Weather Service sends out red flag warnings, alerts that mean extreme weather conditions like hot temperatures, high humidity and strong winds are present.

Senate Bill 176 would allow acequia and irrigation associations to use dollars from the state’s acequia and community ditch infrastructure fund for disaster recovery needs. The legislation as introduced would have doubled the annual amount in that state fund from $2.5 million to $5 million, but Senate Finance removed that.

Aiming to diversify the Interstate Stream Commission, SB 58 would add more advanced expertise standards and require more geographic diversity throughout the state and Native nations, tribes and Pueblos.

This disaster relief measure was one of the first bills Lujan Grisham signed. She made it law on Feb. 20, making $100 million in zero-interest loans available for northern New Mexico political subdivisions recovering from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire. Entities like counties and public acequias can apply to borrow the state money to fix up infrastructure, though the process can take months. Local officials later must repay the state once they get federal relief funds promised by the federal government.


For a state with some of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation, the New Mexico Voting Rights Act would make it easier to vote for different communities. The legislation, House Bill 4, would allow anyone convicted of a felony to vote once released from detainment. It would also enact the Native American Voting Rights Act, which would ensure that precinct boundaries are aligned with tribal political boundaries, allow voters, including those who are unhoused, to put down official buildings as addresses, expand early voting opportunities and send more resources to county clerks’ offices. Other accessibility measures in the bill include requiring at least two drop boxes in every county and automatically registering New Mexicans as voters.

People who file harassment complaints to the interim Legislative Ethics Committee can now speak about it at any time, regardless of where an investigation is at. This aligns with complaints filed during an active session, where people can share details about issues like ethics concerns or harassment complaints. Before, the interim was previously tied to a confidentiality clause, meaning people who file complaints could not talk about their experience. Lujan Grisham changed that by signing House Bill 169 on March 30.


  • House Bill 7: Reproduction and Gender-Affirming Health Care*

Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 7 into law on Thursday, March 16. It prevents government bodies or individuals from interfering with or discriminating against someone’s access or use of reproductive or gender identity health care. This legislation was the first abortion-related measure to make it through the Roundhouse, one of Lujan Grisham’s top priorities this session.

Senate Bill 13 would protect medical providers and patients getting abortion and gender-affirming health care services.

Sen. Liz Stefanics (D-Cerillos) hopes the Rural Health Care Delivery Fund bill could help fill holes in specialty health care in rural New Mexico. This legislation would allow providers in rural areas to apply for grant funding to start up new facilities or expand those that already exist.

Students will soon have access to free menstrual products in public schools after Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 134 on March 30. The legislation requires that products must also be in at least one boy’s bathroom in the public schools.

Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 310 on April 4, allowing law enforcement to bring people to a crisis triage center for a mental health exam instead of strictly to jails or hospitals. Police could bring people there involuntarily, and licensed medical professionals could treat people in crisis.


New Mexico is the 27th state to abolish life without parole as a sentencing option for children sentenced as adults in the state’s criminal legal system. SB 64 also provides developmentally meaningful opportunities for hearings before the Parole Board either 15, 20 or 25 years into an adult sentence given to a child.

Lujan Grisham signed Bennie’s Bill into law on March 14. This legislation makes it a crime for anyone to make a firearm negligently accessible to a minor. If the minor accesses the weapon, it’s a misdemeanor, and if they hurt themself or others, it’s a fourth-degree felony.

Law to ban high-level nuclear waste storage facility effective June - By Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico A state ban on high-level nuclear waste will go into effect in June, blocking a private company’s ability to build a contentious storage facility in southern New Mexico.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signedSenate Bill 53 into law March 17. The bill did not have the votes for an emergency enaction, so it goes into effect June 15.

The new law has two provisions.

The first expands the scope and duties for a task force to consult state agencies on nuclear disposal and investigate its impacts on New Mexico.

The second bans storage of high-level nuclear waste. The ban is in effect until two conditions are met – the state agrees to open a facility to handle waste, and the federal government has adopted apermanent underground storage site for nuclear waste.

“We do need a permanent solution. But New Mexico can’t just be the convenient sacrifice zone for the country’s contamination,” said Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces) in an interview.

High level radioactive waste is extremely toxic. Some types will remain highly radioactive for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. Short doses of exposure can be fatal. If radioactive waste leaches into the groundwater or soils, it can move through the food chain.

The state ban would include regulations on Holtec International’s plans for an underground facility for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power reactors and other high-level radioactive waste from across the country.

At its peak, Holtec projected the facility could hold 176,600 metric tons of waste aboveground on more than 1,000 acres between Hobbs and Carlsbad.

“This bill is another major obstacle that will prevent this site from ever receiving any nuclear waste,” said Don Hancock, Nuclear Waste Safety program director and administrator at the nonprofit Southwest Research and Information Center.

The region already hosts the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, an underground site that stores clothes, tools, rags and other items contaminated with radioactive waste. The new law does not impact WIPP.

In July 2021, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a federal agency that oversees nuclear operations, gave preliminary nod to the facility in an environmental impact statement, over the objections ofpeople living there, thegovernor and members of thecongressional delegation. Days after the law was signed, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pushed back, issuing its final decision to license the facility. In aMarch 20 letter to Holtec, the agency wrote it will publish a final safety evaluation and determine if a license will be issued in May 2023.

Steinborn, who sponsored the bill in the past two legislative sessions, said the task force will now also report each year to the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials interim committee. The task force is made up of secretaries or appointees from seven state departments, now including the Indian Affairs Department and the State Land Office.

Kayleigh Warren, a member of Santa Clara Pueblo and a health and justice coordinator at the nonprofit Tewa Women United, called the four-page bill “an important first step.”

“It’s a way our state can start to communicate to the rest of our county that we’ve done our part,” Warren said. “We’re not interested in being a sacrifice zone for the country’s waste anymore.

Tewa Women United protests the impacts of toxinsfrom Los Alamos National Laboratory on water and land in the Española valley and surrounding Pueblos. Looking forward, a key issue is how tribal governments will participate on the task force.

Native Americans are disproportionately vulnerable from uranium mining on the Navajo Nation or exposed at higher rates to radiation in water supplies.

“I want to see how our voices become part of these conversations moving forward,” Warren said.

Faith guides Catholic pilgrims to historic New Mexico sites - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Thousands of Catholics are making the trek to a historic adobe church in the hills of northern New Mexico as part of a Holy Week tradition that spans generations, carrying heavy wooden crosses and praying as they make their way through the high desert landscape.

El Santuario de Chimayó just north of Santa Fe is one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage centers in the U.S. Some travelers are drawn to the holy dirt, believed to have healing powers. Others come to see Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas, a crucifix that, according to legend, was discovered at the site in the early 1800s.

Most pilgrims begin the journey on Good Friday, with state transportation workers, law enforcement agencies and other volunteers stationed along the roadways to ensure safety.

In an Easter message, Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester reflected Thursday on the season and urged the faithful to be mindful of how they can promote peace and help their neighbors.

"We are called to promote the sanctity of human life, to defend the rights of the oppressed, to search out the lost, and to offer prayers for the good of our church and the world," he wrote.

The Santa Fe Archdiocese is one of the oldest in the U.S. and is made up of many missions that date back centuries, to when Spanish conquistadors and the priests who traveled with them sought to convert to Christianity the pueblo people who lived throughout the Rio Grande Valley and surrounding areas.

Pueblo people who inhabited the Chimayó area long before the Spanish conquest believed that healing spirits were to be found in the form of hot springs. Those springs ultimately dried up, leaving behind earth many still believe to have healing powers.

A National Historic Landmark, El Santuario de Chimayó is decorated with original examples of 19th century Hispanic religious folk art, including santos and religious frescoes. The walls of one room are covered with notes of thanks from those who say they had ailments cured, while discarded canes and braces are meant to serve as proof that miracles happen at El Santuario.

In central New Mexico, pilgrims also make the trek to El Cerro de Tomé, a small hill that rises up from the Rio Grande floodplain. Three crosses sit at the top of the hill and hundreds of petroglyphs on the basalt rocks that make up the landmark serve as evidence that the spot has been a focus of ceremonies and prayers for centuries.

Whirling disease detected at New Mexico fish hatchery - Associated Press

New Mexico wildlife managers will have fewer rainbow trout to stock in rivers and streams around the state this spring after whirling disease was detected at a state hatchery where some of the fish are raised.

The state Game and Fish Department announced Friday that while the disease was found in only low levels at the Rock Lake State Fish Hatchery in eastern New Mexico, the agency will euthanize about 70,000 trout in the affected portions of the hatchery to reduce the chance of the disease spreading.

Whirling disease has not been detected in a New Mexico hatchery since 2007.

"The department will continue to investigate the source of this infection and will continue to perform routine fish-health testing at state-owned fish hatcheries across the state," the agency said in a statement.

The Rock Lake hatchery is the state's primary catchable trout-rearing station. It produces 300,000 trout a year for stocking statewide. It also raises bass, walleye, catfish, bluegills and tiger muskies.

The department said the disease is not known to infect humans.

Whirling disease is caused by the parasite Myxobolus cerebralis. It has become widespread in wild trout populations across the western United States over the past 25 years and sometimes causes temporary declines in trout populations.

The agency stocks rainbow trout in a number of waters to provide year-round angling opportunity. While many streams have been affected by wildfires in recent years, the fish can be found from Albuquerque's Tingley Beach to Red River, San Juan River and Cimarron River.

Rainbow trout are one of the five species of trout found in New Mexico. With numerous black spots and pink streaks on their silvery bodies, rainbow trout living in freshwater streams can reach up to 5 pounds while the lake variety can plump up to about 20 pounds.

Governor reins in tax relief proposal, boosts state spending - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

The governor of New Mexico scaled back a tax relief package on Friday based on concerns it could undermine future spending on public education, healthcare and law enforcement while signing into law $500 individual tax rebates and the largest proposed spending plan in state history.

Vetoed items within the tax relief package included reduced tax rates on personal income, sales and business transactions as well as proposed credits toward the purchase of electric vehicles and related charging equipment.

Surging oil prices and output in southeastern New Mexico have produced a financial windfall for the government. In a state with high rates of poverty and low workforce participation, officials estimate a $3.6 billion annual surplus over current spending obligations for the coming fiscal year.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed "grave concerns about the sustainability" of tax changes proposed by the Democratic-led Legislature.

The Democratic governor endorsed one-time rebates, refundable credits of up to $600 per child, a tax break for health care providers and new incentives for the film industry estimated at $90 million a year, but vetoed an array of tax cuts and credits to safeguard state finances.

"Tax cuts will impact our ability to fund important services and programs that our citizens depend on, such as education, health care, public safety, and infrastructure," the governor warned in a written message to legislators about her line-item changes to the tax bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Derrick Lente, of Sandia Pueblo.

The state would forgo about $247 million annually by 2027 under the tax bill after the governor's changes. Without changes, tax relief would have soon exceeded $1 billion annually.

At the same time, Lujan Grisham signed into law with few exceptions a $9.6 billion annual spending plan from the Legislature that shores up rural health care networks while underwriting tuition-free college, no-pay day care and new business incentives. The plan represented a roughly 14% spending increase for the fiscal year that runs from July 2023 through June 2024.

The approved budget includes 5% average salary increases for state employees and public education workers. Lawmakers also approved $1 billion in direct spending on infrastructure projects, vetoing just a handful of construction items.

The governor highlighted new state spending initiatives aimed at providing healthy, no-pay meals to all students of public schools after federal funding was scaled back, as well as an expansion of public funding for professional and vocational training.

She also noted a $146 million permanent annual allocation toward tuition-free college, and an $80 million reserve to support newly constructed hospitals in rural areas.

Environmental advocacy groups including the Sierra Club criticized the governor's veto of tax credits designed to rein in climate change and reduce fossil fuel consumption. Lujan Grisham vetoed consumer tax credits toward the purchase of heat pumps that can lower home energy consumption and rejected a credit of up to $4,000 toward the purchase of an electric vehicle. She also struck down incentives for large-scale geothermal production of electricity.

"Climate tax credits would have amounted to a drop in the bucket of New Mexico's budget," the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter said in a statement.

Other vetoes on Friday included a bill to create a civil rights division at the attorney general's office in efforts to safeguard the rights of children in state custody amid allegations of inadequate care and protection. The governor rejected a proposal to reduce and modify high school graduation requirements, saying it would have weakened education standards.

A bill to increase salaries for state justices and judges, by pegging them to pay to rates for federal judges, was vetoed. The governor said judges got a 17% pay raise last year and that she would rather consider the addition of more judges to alleviate backlogged cases that delay justice.

In all, 34 bills were vetoed explicitly or by ignoring them as a signing deadline passed on Friday.

Other bills signed on Friday seek to bolster the state's health care workforce and make medical care more accessible, including changes to medical malpractice regulations aimed at easing financial pressures on independent clinics.

Individual tax rebates of $500 are scheduled for delivery in June. Rebates of $1,000 will go to married couples, single heads of family households, as well as widows and widowers.

New Mexico State chancellor leaving amid tumultuous tenure - Associated Press

New Mexico State University's embattled chancellor, who has been facing a climate of deep distrust and frustration with school leadership, is leaving.

The NMSU Board of Regents announced Friday that they and Chancellor Dan Arvizu have mutually agreed that he will step down.

"The Board of Regents appreciates all Chancellor Arvizu has done for our university," Ammu Devasthali, chair of the NMSU Board of Regents, said in a statement.

Former NMSU President Jay Gogue will take over as an interim chancellor effective immediately.

Arvizu said it was for the best that the university be able to start a search for a permanent chancellor as soon as possible.

"For the past five years, my only motivation has been to do what I believe is in the best interest of NMSU, and transitioning now will allow the university to devote the time and effort needed over the next several months for a successful search," Arvizu said in the same statement.

Arvizu drew concerns in the NMSU community after police body cam video came out from a dispute at his home. The $500,000-a-year chancellor was accused by his wife, Sheryl, of having an affair with a NMSU staff member.

He denied the affair.

It's among other troubles the state's second-biggest university has faced in recent months. The once-treasured men's basketball program has been suspended for the season due to a fatal shooting. There's also been a gruesome allegation of locker-room hazing.

There have been seven different presidents, interim presidents and chancellors at the school over the past 15 years.

Officers kill homeowner after responding to wrong address - Associated Press

Officers with the Farmington Police Department in northwestern New Mexico shot and killed a homeowner when they showed up at the wrong address in response to a domestic violence call, state police investigators said.

The shooting happened around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. New Mexico State Police released more details late Thursday, and Farmington police confirmed Friday that the three officers involved are on paid administrative leave pending a review of the case.

The officers were not immediately identified, and it wasn't clear what administrative action could be taken.

Body camera footage reviewed by state police shows the homeowner opening the screen door armed with a handgun and that's when officers retreated and fired. Not knowing who was outside, the man's wife returned fire from the doorway and officers fired again.

State police said the woman put down her gun after realizing the individuals outside her home were police officers.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a social media post that it was a chaotic scene and that more information will be released in the coming week. He called it a dark day for the police force and for the family of homeowner, who was identified as Robert Dotson.

"What I will tell you as the chief is that this is an extremely traumatic event and that I am just heartbroken by the circumstances surrounding this," he said. "... This ending is just unbelievably tragic. I am extremely sorry that we are in this position."

The case comes amid an ongoing reckoning across the country over use of force by law enforcement officers. Most recently, the U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation after a U.S. Park Police officer in Washington fatally shot a 17-year-old who drove off with an officer in the back seat after being found asleep in a suspected stolen car.

In Farmington, the officers had initially knocked on the front door of the wrong home and announced themselves as police officers. When there was no answer, they asked dispatchers to call the reporting party back and have them come to the front door.

Dotson, 52, was pronounced dead at the scene.

When asked about the initial report of domestic violence that came from a home across the street, Farmington police spokesperson Shanice Gonzales said no action was taken against any of the parties in that case and that no one was armed at that address.

The shooting remains under investigation. The State Police Investigations Bureau said any findings will be shared with the district attorney for further review.

Santa Fe judge facing DWI charges now suspended without pay - Associated Press

A Santa Fe County magistrate judge who was arrested over a month ago for DWI has been suspended.

The state Supreme Court issued an order Friday temporarily suspending Magistrate Judge Dev Atma Khalsa without pay. Initially, he was put on indefinite administrative leave with pay pending an investigation by the Judicial Standards Commission.

The court also unsealed filings related to Khalsa's disciplinary case.

Khalsa's attorney, Kitren Fischer, declined to immediately comment since she had not spoken with him yet.

In February, Santa Fe police responded to a rollover car crash on Interstate 25. Officers found Khalsa standing outside his car. His breath also emitted the smell of alcohol and his speech was slurred, according to authorities.

Khalsa was transported to a hospital but was uncooperative and refused to submit to a blood or chemical test.

He was booked on suspicion of aggravated driving while intoxicated and driving with an expired license and then released the same day.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges in March.

Khalsa began his first term last year and previously worked as prosecutor in the First Judicial District Attorney's Office. Police said Khalsa didn't appear to have any other DWI charges on his record.