Most New Mexico families with infants exposed to drugs skip subsidized treatment, study says

Oct 27, 2023, 4:11 PM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Most New Mexico families with infants exposed to illicit drugs, marijuana and alcohol in the womb have been forgoing subsidized addiction treatment and other voluntary support services since the state’s shift in 2020 that halted automatic referrals to protective services, a new study indicated on Friday.

The Legislature’s budget and accountability office told a panel of lawmakers that New Mexico’s revamped response to substance-exposed newborns — changes implemented in response to federal drug-abuse legislation — succeeded in keeping more parents together with their children, to avoid trauma associated with separation.

At the same time, evaluators said the approach does not fulfill its purpose of keeping newborns safe and directing families to treatment, as parents miss or decline services ranging from mental health counseling to home visits by nurses aimed at improving the health and development of infants. The study notes that drug and alcohol use by parents is a major risk factor in neglect and abuse of children.

“The vast majority of (these) families are not receiving support services or substance-use treatment,” said Ryan Tolman, a program evaluator with the Legislature’s budget and accountability office.

He said rates of newborns with substance-withdrawal symptoms in New Mexico have climbed to more than twice the national average. And yet only one-in-seven local families with substance-exposed newborns accepts referrals to addiction treatment, the study found.

Home visiting services for infants reaches about 50 families out of about 1,300 each year that receive state-mandated plans of care for substance-exposed newborns.

Even when families do accept services, the study cited obstacles to monitoring and tracking long-term participation — which is not required by law. Other states including Arizona require child protective services to monitor progress and participation when referrals are made for substance-exposed infants. Illinois has extensive requirements for meetings between caseworkers and parents.

The new findings arrive amid an overhaul of the state’s foster care and child welfare agency. New Mexico’s repeat rate of reported child abuse cases is among the worst in the country, amid chronic workforce shortages in the child welfare system.

The new approach to substance-exposed newborns was enacted by New Mexico lawmakers in 2019 at the outset of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s first term in office, requiring that hospitals and birthing centers develop a plan of care for infants exposed to drugs and alcohol before birth, in coordination with medical providers, insurers and state agencies.

The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan defended its oversight of the program in a written response to the new study, saying it has “improved outcomes for hundreds of infants and families,” and that infant mortality rates under the program are similar to the general population.

Still, the administration wants to hire 20 new professional “navigators” to help families with substance-exposed newborns access services, said Teresa Casados, secretary of the Children, Youth, and Families Department that leads oversight.

“That’s really my hope, is that we can get navigators out into the communities that are more engaged with families,” Casados said.

Leslie Hayes, a physician in Española who frequently treats opioid addiction among pregnant women with regimens including anti-craving medication, said many new parents hesitate to accept home visits from nurses — in part out of embarrassment about ordinary household messiness.

She said it’s crucial to devote resources not only to babies but also to the well-being of their parents.

“I find with pregnant women in general and especially with postpartum women with substance-use disorders, they get so focused on the baby that they forget to take care of themselves,” said Hayes, who works for El Centro Family Health at its Rio Arriba Health Commons. “Some of them end up relapsing and dying.”

United States News

Associated Press

UNLV gunman was unemployed professor who had 150 rounds of ammunition and a target list, police say

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 67-year-old college professor who was denied jobs at various Nevada colleges and universities stuffed loaded handgun magazines into his waistband before walking into a University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus building and killing three faculty members, police said. After police killed him in a shootout, Anthony Polito was found to […]

1 hour ago

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on June 3, ...

Associated Press

High-profile attacks on Derek Chauvin and Larry Nassar put spotlight on violence in federal prisons

Derek Chauvin was stabbed nearly two dozen times in the law library at a federal prison in Arizona. Larry Nassar was knifed repeatedly in his cell at a federal penitentiary in Florida. The assaults of two notorious, high-profile federal prisoners by fellow inmates in recent months have renewed concerns about whether the chronically understaffed, crisis-plagued […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Maureen Reid, left, and her guide dog, Gaston, cross the intersection of Wood Street and Roo...

Associated Press

Census Bureau wants to change how it asks about disabilities. Some advocates don’t like it

The U.S. Census Bureau wants to change how it asks people about disabilities, and some advocates are complaining that they were not consulted enough on what amounts to a major overhaul in how disabilities would be defined by the federal government. Disability advocates say the change would artificially reduce their numbers by almost half. At […]

2 hours ago

This cover image released by Money/Republic Records shows “Pink Friday 2” by Nicki Minaj, relea...

Associated Press

Attention all Barbz: Nicki Minaj has released ‘Pink Friday 2,’ 13 years after the original

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nicki Minaj ‘s highly anticipated fifth studio album, “Pink Friday 2,” is finally here. Out Friday, the 10-time Grammy nominee’s 41st birthday, “Pink Friday 2” is Minaj’s first full-length release since 2018’s “Queen.” The 22-track release is stacked with features, including contributions from Drake, Lil Wayne, J. Cole, Lil Uzi Vert […]

2 hours ago

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)...

Associated Press

Retail group pulls back on claim organized retail crime accounts for nearly half of inventory loss

The National Retail Federation has revised a report that pulls back the claim that organized retail crime accounts for nearly half of overall industry shrink.

5 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Collins Comfort

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

Most New Mexico families with infants exposed to drugs skip subsidized treatment, study says