Summer is winding down and harvest season is quickly approaching. The change of the season is always very beautiful, but before the excitement of the leaves changing colors begins, we have to understand the dangers that many people are facing. With food security concerns around the state and a potential eviction crisis on the horizon it is important to ensure that everyone has the basics for survival. In Episode 7, we look at the essentials of survival—shelter, health care and food—and attempt to see not only what the problems are, but how they can be fixed.
New Day Youth and Family Services is a shelter for young people in New Mexico. CEO Steve Johnson talks about how fewer people than he expected are seeking help from New Day during the pandemic, and that could mean young folks are staying in hard situations instead. He also discusses the impressive ability of young people in trouble to heal once they are in a safe place, and to build a future for themselves.
Cholla Khoury is the director of the Division of Consumer and Environmental Protection at the Attorney General's Office. She works on a program called Keep Your Home New Mexico, which provides advice and help to homeowners who are facing foreclosure and renters facing eviction.
With an eviction crisis looming, examining the data to learn who is bearing the brunt of the burden helps policymakers determine how to prioritize assistance. Steven Brown is a research associate at the Urban Institute, a think tank focused on economic and social policy based in Washington D.C. He says the numbers show nearly twice as many Latino and Black people around the country say they may not be able to pay rent next month, and one-fifth of Black and Brown families were not getting enough to eat at the end of July—even before the coming decrease in unemployment benefits.
We've made it a point to cover the stories of people who are without shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. Estimates say that number is about to go up. KUNM's News Director and reporter Hannah Colton brings us a snapshot of what it's like out there on the streets five months into the pandemic.
Ed Williams is a reporter who covers public health for Searchlight New Mexico. He talks with us about the quality and standards of treatment at nursing homes and the lack of transparency in regards to pandemic safety measures. Here's his story: 'An anything-goes situation.' Full response from the Governor's Office about the contract awarded for COVID care for seniors at the bottom of this post
Ismael Camacho is the staff attorney on the farmworker project at New Mexico Legal Aid. He breaks down the pandemic-driven concerns of the people who pick most of the state's food and the lack of access to coronavirus testing.
For many, their time collecting unemployment benefits is running out, and Congress has still yet to pass another relief package. State Secretary of Workforce Solutions Bill McCamley stops by to give the update on the status of those payments and explains overpayments that happened for some people in New Mexico receiving benefits.
Next Week: We are talking mental wellness. What have you been doing to keep your mind balanced in these turbulent times? Tune in Sunday, Sept. 6, at 11 a.m.
- Apply for unemployment
- Department of Workforce Solutions' COVID info page for workers or businesses
- The New Mexico Restaurant Association has financial info and updates for business owners and workers
SHELTER & UTILITIES
- Need help with an eviction? N.M. Legal Aid: (505) 633-6694 or Senior Citizens Law Office: (505) 265-2300
- Rent and utility assistance from the City of Albuquerque
- For help with your PNM utility bill: PNM.com/billhelp
- Mesilla Valley Community Of Hope
- Here's a list from CYFD of shelters for young people experiencing homelessness or survivors of domestic violence in the state. They're still open. And if you have resources to share, they could use some donations.
- If you’re experiencing violence at home or in a relationship, you can reach the Domestic Violence Resource Center at 505-248-3165 or at dvrcnm.org
- Here's the N.M. Coalition to End Homelessness, which works statewide. And here's their page devoted to coronavirus updates.
- For information on SNAP benefits, here's the link, or call 800-283-4465
- Find food assistance anywhere in the state through Roadrunner
- Grab and Go meal sites for Albuquerque students
- Mutual Aid in Albuquerque: ffol.org
- The state has guaranteed free testing for coronavirus and free treatment. So if you don’t have health insurance, don’t let that stop you from seeking care. It also covers illnesses related to COVID, like flu or pneumonia. Here are the testing sites.
- If you get billed for it, and you think it’s unfair, call the OSI Managed Health Care Bureau at 1-855-427-5674
- No-cost medicaid coverage is available for low-income New Mexicans at yes.state.nm.us or 1-(855) 637-6574
- Health Action New Mexico has a blog that can help walk you through your insurance questions. Head to https://www.healthactionnm.org/blog
- Albuquerque Health Care For The Homeless
- Have you experienced a short check? Wage theft? You can call the federal Department of Labor: dol.gov, 1-866-487-2365, the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions: dws.state.nm.us, or Albuquerque’s Legal Department: cabq.gov/legal, (505) 768-4500).
- If you're experiencing discrimination or harassment, you can report it to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: eeoc.gov, 1-800-669-4000, the state's Human Rights Bureau: 1-800-566-9471, or Albuquerque's Office of Equity and Inclusion: (505) 768-3307.
- For occupational health and safety violations, look to OSHA: osha.gov, 1-800-321-6742. Or if you were injured on the job, the New Mexico Workers Compensation Administration: workerscomp.nm.gov, 505-827-3600.
- Or if you experience retaliation for speaking out, the National Labor Relations Board: nlrb.gov, 1-844-762-NLRB.
- The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty can also hear your claims about unsafe conditions and wage theft: nmpovertylaw.org, 505-255-2840
- Workers rights advocates at Somos un Pueblo Unido are ready to help, too: somosunpueblounido.org. They have offices in Santa Fe, Roswell and Hobbs.
- And of course, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos also helps workers facing exploitation, wage theft, injury ... all of it: elcentronm.org, 505-246-1627
Special thanks to:
- Rachel Popowcer and Robbie Sugg for the artwork this week.
- Jazztone the Producer, Cheo, Dahm Life, Oh Lawd Records for providing music for the show. Khaki, Pope Yesyesyall, and Bigawatt composed some of the show's themes.
- Ty Bannerman and Megan Kamerick for the editing help.
- KUNM News Director Hannah Colton for her reporting and contribution to this episode.
- And as always thanks to our guests for sharing their stories, lives, and perspectives.
No More Normal is brought to you by Your New Mexico Government, a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage comes from the New Mexico Local News Fund, the Kellog Foundation and KUNM listeners like you, with support for public meida provided by the Thornburg Foundation.
Here's the full response from the Governor's Office to concerns raised by Ed Williams' investigative reporting for Searchlight N.M. "No More Normal" Executive Producer Marisa Demarco sent these questions via email. Spokesperson Breanna Anderson responded.
"Why did the state give a contract for housing seniors with COVID to a company that the DOJ called an unscrupulous provider that offers substandard care?
- In the weeks following the first COVID-positives in New Mexico, the state arranged a contract with Genesis Healthcare to create a COVID-only Nursing Home. The goal has and is to create a space where:
- Positive individuals can receive care, outside of the hospital, to lighten the burden on the health care system
- Positive residents can be transferred to Canyon Transitional in order to contain the spread of the virus inside nursing homes with little to no other positives—creating relief to nursing homes with positives, and ultimately saving lives
- COVID-positive residents have access to the appropriate level of care, staffing, equipment, and technology to give them the best chance at recovering from the virus
Not only was Genesis one of the first organizations in the country to operate a COVID-only nursing home, they owned Canyon Transitional, located in Albuquerque where New Mexico was experiencing a large outbreak. Additionally, the facility had residents that were receiving short-term therapy and had bed availability. In order to alleviate strain on our hospitals and given Genesis’s experience, combined with the availability of beds, New Mexico worked with Genesis to expediently convert Canyon Transitional into a COVID-only facility- making New Mexico one of only several states in the nation to create this live-saving measure. As of Aug. 27, we have seen 220 COVID positive patients successfully recover and be discharged home.
When Canyon Transitional became the sole COVID-only nursing home in the state, the facility had cleared their findings and remain in substantial compliance with state and federal regulations.
And one that requires patients to sign away their right to a trial by jury should anything go wrong?
In regards to their entry paperwork, you’ll need to reach out to Genesis for that information.
NOTE: Genesis, in a separate email to Williams, said people are not required to sign away their right to a trial by jury in order to be admitted to their facility. But as Williams points out in the story, the people being admitted are sick with COVID and are handed a big stack of papers to sign when they get to the facility. The paperwork signing away this right is somewhere in the middle.
New Mexico is tied with Arkansas for having the worst rate of deficiencies in our nursing homes. How is the state working on that during the pandemic?
The scope and severity of deficiencies vary widely and not all citations are directly related to patient care. Simply counting the number of deficiencies does not provide an accurate picture of the quality of care provided to residents.
Are you worried about how patients are being treated in Canyon? Has the state been checking on this during the pandemic?
Of course! We are concerned about all residents in long term care settings. The priority is to keep them safe and protected from this virus, abuse and neglect, while also helping to alleviate the effects of isolation. We have a Long-Term Care Medical Advisory Team that has and continues to provide guidance and recommendations on both levels (isolation and safety). We also meet routinely with Canyon to discuss care. And we encourage residents, family members, financial institutions, and care givers to report any issues of abuse or neglect by contacting our Ombudsman, the State Department of Health’s Division of Health Improvement, or Adult Protective Services.
DOH DHI reports:
- The Division of Health Improvement conducted an onsite COVID 19 visit on 6/24 and the survey was deficiency free.
- DHI conducts ongoing off-site video surveillance visits with Canyon to determine compliance with PPE, infection control protocols and resident care.
- Any reports of resident abuse, neglect that rises to the level of immediate jeopardy are investigated within 2 days of report."