Memorial to expand home visiting services passed by Senate Public Affairs Committee

SANTA FE— A memorial establishing an advisory council to develop a plan for the statewide expansion of a Medicaid-financed home visiting system in New Mexico, will head to the Senate floor following a “do-pass” vote today in the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Home visiting programs provide support and critical assistance for families that range from health care to emotional and social supports at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. Senate Memorial 117, Medicaid Home Visiting Program Council, is sponsored by Senator Linda M. Lopez.

“Every child deserves the best start from birth. Nurturing our state’s youngest children is key to ensuring they grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in life,” said William Townley, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We’re optimistic that the memorial will pass the Senate.”

If passed by the New Mexico Senate, SM 117 would convene a council of home visiting providers and heads of the Human Services Department, Children, Youth and Families Department, Department of Health, and the Children’s Cabinet to make recommendations for expanding home visiting across the state through Medicaid financing.

Research shows that home visiting helps establish a strong foundation for families so children can grow up healthier and parents can develop stronger parenting skills. Home visiting programs that currently exist in New Mexico provide a team of professionals to help families learn about healthcare, child development, and parenting skills. Other services can include screening mothers for postpartum depression, supporting breastfeeding, and connecting families to community activities.

Unfortunately, most New Mexican families do not have access to home visiting services. Most services are offered by private non-profits that cannot scale up to meet the large unmet need in the state.

“Offering education early in a child’s life is essential in helping families succeed,” said Townley. “It would be good for everyone in New Mexico if more families could access home visiting.”

Action Alert: Please ask policymakers to invest in Medicaid home visiting services

Every child deserves the best start from birth! Please call the policymakers below and ask them to invest in Medicaid home visiting services.

This legislative session, New Mexico has an opportunity to improve early childhood health and development outcomes by expanding home visiting services through Medicaid. 

For roughly every $3 dollars New Mexico invests in Medicaid home visiting, the federal government will put $7 toward the program in matching funds. 
Expanding home visiting to 10,000 more Medicaid-eligible children will only require an investment of $10 million. This investment will support services proven to: 

  • Improve a child’s physical, social, and emotional well-being;
  • Increase the likelihood that a child receives important screenings and immunizations;
  • Reduce childhood abuse and neglect;
  • Reduce healthcare costs;
  • Improve a child’s school readiness; and
  • Increase parental enrollment in education and job programs. 

Please help us call these key policymakers and ask them to invest $10 million in Medicaid home visiting services. It is easy and will only take a few minutes.

  • Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, (505) 476-2200
  • Speaker Brian Egolf, (505) 986-4782
  • Representative Patty Lundstrom, Chair of House Appropriations Committee, (505) 986-4316 
  • Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth, (505) 986-4727
  • Senator John Arthur Smith, Chair of Senate Finance Committee, (505) 986-4365

A staff member for each policymaker will answer the phone. You will give your name and leave a message that you want them to invest $10 million in Medicaid home visiting services.

Please email William@nmpovertylaw.org if you have any questions.

Investment in home visits invests in our future

By William Townley, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Healthcare Attorney
(This op-ed appeared in the Albuquerque Journal)

Every parent knows that having a new child is incredible and wonderful, but also one of the most stressful endeavors anyone can ever hope to undertake. In New Mexico, about 27,000 children are born each year. Many of these newborns are the sons and daughters of first-time parents who are just embarking on a lifetime full of joys and the greatest of challenges.

Every child deserves the best start from birth. We know that the earliest years of our children’s lives are the most important in their social, emotional and cognitive development. Nurturing our youngest children is key to ensuring they grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in life.

But parenting is hard. And it can be especially daunting for parents who have little in resources.

Home-visiting programs can be of great help to new families, providing support and critical assistance that ranges from health care to emotional and social supports at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. 

This legislative session, our leaders have an opportunity to expand Medicaid-funded home visiting to more families statewide. Services that more New Mexicans could access include checking on the development and health of the child, screening mothers for post-partum depression, supporting breastfeeding, and connecting families to community activities.

New Mexico is already moving forward with a pilot home-visiting program for Medicaid eligible families in Bernalillo County starting in January 2019. Curry and Roosevelt counties will join the pilot later in the year. 

This pilot will implement two different models of evidence-based home visiting, Parents as Teachers and Nurse-Family Partnership, which have been found to produce higher educational and health outcomes for children. Both models measurably reduce birth complications, infant emergency medical care episodes, as well as incidence of child abuse and neglect, and successfully encourage young parents to pursue higher education and job training.

There has never been a more opportune time to invest in our children. The pilot program leverages federal funding to cover about 70 percent of the costs. If our Legislature expanded the program, our state would be able to leverage the same percentage and New Mexico could offer home visiting programs at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost the state.

For every dollar we invest in home visiting, New Mexico can save between three dollars and six dollars in remedial costs. Home visiting establishes a strong foundation for families where children can grow up healthier and safer, and parents can develop stronger parenting skills for the years to come.

We call on our governor-elect and state lawmakers to expand Medicaid-funded home visiting to all New Mexican families. We ask that you pick up the phone and do the same.