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WED: New Mexico ranks 50th in child welfare, + More

Thomas G.

New Mexico 50th in child welfare, showing both improvements and declines in several areas - Leah Romero, Source New Mexico

For the third year in a row, New Mexico is last in the nation for child welfare, according to the 2024 KIDS Count Data Book released this week.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation prepares the report for all 50 states. Its mission to track child well being in the country focuses on compiling federal data on four factors: family and community, education performance, overall health and economic reality.

New Mexico historically falls at the bottom of this report. Its best placement was in 2021 when the state climbed to 49th in the rankings.

The 2024 report shows Arizona (42nd) and Texas (43rd) as states with similar issues to New Mexico’s. Colorado (17th) and Utah (3rd) are neighboring states leading on child welfare, the report shows.

Utah was also listed as number one in the nation for the Family and Community indicator that measures teen pregnancies, the number of children in single parent households, living in poverty and the education outcomes in their households.

New Mexico sits near the bottom of the list for that indicator but it is also the one where the state has shown the most improvement since 2019 with more kids living in economically stable homes with better educated parents. Teen births are also down in New Mexico since 2019.

On the other hand, education outcomes in New Mexico and across the country saw declines in three of the four indicators, specifically in reading and math proficiency.


New Mexico’s education performance tracked with the rest of the nation while starting with a notably higher rate of children not proficient in fourth grade reading (79% up from 76% in 2019) and eighth grade math (87% up from 79% in 2019).

“New Mexico’s ranking in the education domain is heavily impacted by national standardized test scores, including fourth grade reading proficiency,” Emily Wildau, KIDS COUNT coordinator at New Mexico Voices for Children, said in a news release. “These scores do not reflect the ability of our children, but rather an education system that is not designed with our multicultural, multilingual students in mind.”

The state’s K-12 Plus Program is mentioned in the report as an example of a state “bolstering services and resources that equip kids to learn.” The program was created by a new state law passed during the 2023 regular legislative session and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

House Bill 130 changed part of the Public School Code to extend instructional time requirements for elementary and secondary education. It also allows for an increase in funding from the state if local school districts and charter schools extend the learning calendar past 180 days, or 155 days for districts with four-day school weeks.

However, the decision to extend the school year is a topic lawmakers, schools boards, educators, students and parents have had differing opinions on. The law setting school calendars based on hours, not days, is currently held up in court and might not be in effect before the new school year begins.


Health indicators over the last decade have helped improve the state’s scores, but improvements appear to have stagnated over the last couple of years.

The number of New Mexico children without health insurance improved between 2019 and 2022, according to the data book. But the state also reported an increase in babies born at a low birth weight and an increase in deaths of children and teens.

In 2022, New Mexico experienced 40 child or teen deaths per 100,00 compared to the national average of 30 deaths per 100,000. And nearly 10% of babies born in New Mexico were born at low birth weight.

Meanwhile, the state also reported some improvement in the family and community sector, including a decrease in teen births.


The KIDS COUNT report offered several solutions for states to consider when addressing overall child well being, including the implementation of more community schools throughout the school districts in the states.

Community schools are public schools that work to meet the needs of children outside of traditional education. This includes providing regular meals to children and families, mental health services and connections to other areas of support.

According to the New Mexico Public Education Department, there were 150 community schools in the state as of September 2023, with 91 schools receiving state grant funding through the department.

The wraparound services provided through community schools were highlighted in the databook as beneficial for addressing factors in children’s home life that might make it a struggle for them to learn in school.

Long-awaited Behavioral Health Crisis Center to open - Bethany Raja, City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ 

Bernalillo County’s Behavioral Health Crisis Center is scheduled to open for patients later this month, with a ribbon cutting set for June 14.

“It’s a major milestone in the evolution of the Bernalillo County and University of New Mexico Hospital efforts to address behavioral health challenges and provide a continuum of care,” said Julie Morgas Baca, Bernalillo County manager.

The center, located at 2600 Marble Ave. NE, is designed to keep people needing mental health help from having to go to the emergency room or jail, Morgas Baca said.

The center is a result of a partnership between Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico Health Center and the community — which approved a tax dedicated to behavioral health care in 2014. Morgas Baca said at its initiation the gross receipt tax generated $17 million and now the tax generates around $30 million per fiscal year and is expected to bring in $34.8 million in fiscal year 2025.

The 48,699-square-foot center includes three parts: a crisis triage center, psychiatric emergency services and a peer-based living room. The center also has group therapy rooms, community day rooms and dining support services. There’s a separate entrance for law enforcement to bring in patients who need help.

“When I became the manager in 2015, it became obvious that the community was very interested in developing a crisis triage center and building a crisis triage center for the community because we didn’t have anything like that,” Morgas Baca said.

She said it’s taken a while to build the services associated with the center because there hadn’t been anything like this in Bernalillo County before.


Rodney McNease, senior executive director of governmental affairs at UNMH, said a huge amount of work went into building a new system of care.

“A lot of this work has come from multiple kinds of initiatives and reports over time that point out the gaps in our system of care,” he said. “One of the clear gaps is really related to the crisis triage center component.”

The system currently has inpatient hospital care and regular outpatient care, but McNease said there isn’t much for people who are in the middle.

“They don’t necessarily need to be inpatient at a psychiatric hospital, but they need a lot more support than just outpatient care,” he said.

The 16-bed crisis triage center is next to the adult psychiatric hospital. McNease said UNMH significantly expanded and rebuilt their psychiatric emergency department in the same facility, “so you’ll have a continuum of crisis emergency services.”


One thing McNease said UNMH is excited about is the peer living room model, similar to an outpatient clinic.

“So if somebody just feels like they need some more support, but they don’t necessarily need clinical services — they may need just to talk to somebody, they may need assistance trying to get a resume together — people can come in and do those kinds of activities,” he said.

McNease said not everyone who comes to the center has to stay overnight.

“We also anticipate a lot of folks could come and see a provider,” he said. “They may need to have their medications refilled. They might need to have some things like that and then they would be able to go about their day.”


Morgas Baca said officials are trying to “take the clinical part out” of the Behavioral Health Crisis Center.

The center, Morgas Baca said, was created to be a supportive place of healing and a growth-oriented environment where individuals can work on their mental health challenges.

“We want it to be a really safe, comfortable place for somebody to go that’s on the streets, that feels like they need the services…they can walk in the door and that’s where they can get help,” she said.

McNease said getting to this point has been a huge commitment from both the county and UNMH throughout the years.

“We’re just extraordinarily excited that we’re pretty much here now,” he said.

New round of CHIPS funding to bring almost $24M to NM solar energy and satellite company —Daniel Montaño, KUNM News

The White House Tuesday announced an Albuquerque based end-to-end space company will receive nearly $24 million in funding under the CHIPS and Science Act.

Rocket Lab, formerly SolAero, will use the award to expand its satellite power production, and add up to 140 new jobs, according tothe New Mexico Economic Development Department. .

The company will also be using $70 million of private funding, and $25 million in state incentives and financial assistance to fund its expansion.

Rocket Lab builds solar power technology used on satellites and spacecraft, like the James Webb Space Telescope and early missile warning systems. It also provides launch services, satellite and spacecraft components, and on-orbit management, according toits website.

This is the second of ten awards from the CHIPS Act to come to New Mexico. The first was an $8.5 billion dollar investment in Intel, which will use some of its award to upgrade two semiconductor production facilities into advanced packaging facilities at its Rio Rancho plant.

Economic Development Secretary Mark Roper said the funding, “solidifies New Mexico as a center for advanced manufacturing.”

Under the CHIPS agreement, Rocket Lab will partner with New Space New Mexico, a local nonprofit focused on expanding innovation. The nonprofit will have access to Rocket Lab’s equipment, personnel and services. It will also receive $2 million in funding from the company, as well as sponsored internships that promote high-tech manufacturing in underserved communities.

State opens special hunting lottery for military members and veterans - By Nash Jones, KUNM News

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has announced it is offering special hunting opportunities to certain military servicemembers and veterans. The lottery for the limited slots opens Wednesday.

Injured active-duty personnel and veterans can apply for one of 10 authorizations to hunt oryx on the White Sands Missile Range. Eligible vets must have a Department of Veteran Affairs disability rating of 50% or more.

The other two drawings are to hunt pronghorn on Melrose Air Force Base. There are five authorizations available to Purple Heart recipients who are New Mexico residents and six open to service members permanently stationed in the state.

Applications must be submitted on the department’sonline licensing system by July 17.