LFC: Health, CYFD departments continue to struggle
The state Health Department’s epidemiology division—responsible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for tracking data—failed to meet most of its performance targets, according to fourth-quarter “report cards” prepared for lawmakers by the Legislative Finance Committee (page 36). “While the impact of the pandemic on agency performance is waning, some departments continue to struggle with providing services under strained conditions and with overworked staff, including the Health Department, which has been the lead agency for much of public health emergency response,” the report notes. The analysis also cited continued problems with the beleaguered Children, Youth and Families Department’s ability to reduce repeated instances of maltreatment (page 14). “Reducing repeat child maltreatment is the primary measure of New Mexico’s welfare system and one on which the Children, Youth and Families continues to perform poorly,” the report notes. “In a sea of green ratings—although the success on many CYFD ratings is, perhaps, a reflection of undemanding targets—the department continues to underperform on targets for repeat maltreatment, maltreatment of foster care children, and serious injuries after protective services involvement. New Mexico’s rates for repeat maltreatment are among the worst in the nation.” Lawmakers yesterday also heard an update on Medicaid enrollment from the Health and Human Services Department, which anticipates a loss of up to 100,000 people from Medicaid when the federal government ends the public health emergency, as various waivers, supplements and other benefits also will be phased out. As such HSD’s budget request for fiscal year 2024 is $165.2 million—11.6%—more than 2023, primarily to “backfill” lost federal funds, according to a hearing brief. The LFC is meeting through tomorrow in Taos.
City touts affordable housing accomplishments
The City of Santa Fe’s Office of Affordable Housing reported yesterday it oversaw approximately $3.1 million in spending during the 2021-2022 fiscal year on a variety of services and resources for low and moderate-income families and individuals in Santa Fe. City contributions included nearly $650,000 for down-payment assistance for 34 households; about $1.2 million on emergency housing assistance for 736 families; approximately $969,000 on public services, including helping Adelante’s school project provide services for 855 students and families, and assisting 150 households and people who were served at Consuelo’s Place shelter. The city also invested just over $289,000 on affordable housing repairs and rehabilitation. That included help for 14 homeowners who made improvements to their homes through the Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity home repair program; 28 units at St. Elizabeth’s Casa Cerrillos to install new and improved floors; and 62 affordable rental home upgrades by the Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority.
Lujan Grisham, Ronchetti agree on TV forums
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham launched a slate of new radio ads yesterday as part of her re-election campaign. According to a campaign news release, the ads will air in English, Spanish and Diné Bizaad (Navajo), with the first one focusing on the governor’s record on education, such as actions to increase access to child care, raise teachers’ salaries and cut back on administrative paperwork. The second ad will emphasize Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti “cannot be trusted when it comes to abortion rights.” The third ad “spotlights” Lujan Grisham’s “commitment to preserving the culture and traditions of the Pueblos, Tribes, and Nations” in New Mexico, while the fourth is focused on veterans. The campaign’s deployment of ads comes as Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti announce agreed upon dates for upcoming televised debates. The first will take place on Sept. 30 on Channel 4 and the second, on Channel 7, will occur on Oct. 12. The Republican Governors Association yesterday also released a new ad in the race, targeting New Mexico’s “crime crisis,” and accusing Lujan Grisham of “playing politics with public safety.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Sept. 21: New cases: 295; 616,648 total cases; Deaths: 10; Santa Fe County has had 350 total deaths; there have been 8,534 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 78. Patients on ventilators: four; According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent “community levels” map, which updates on Thursdays, all of New Mexico is currently “green,” and has low case and hospitalization rates. The health department’s most recent report on geographical trends shows Santa Fe County’s case rate per 100,000 population dropped from 12.7 to 11.8 for the week of Sept. 12-18; the state’s total reported cases dropped by close to 12% during that time period to 1,462 total cases.
Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Perhaps you’ve read about the efforts to protect the Caja del Rio Plateau. A new multimedia collection of stories, produced by the Conservation Lands Foundation with support from New Mexico Wild and the Caja del Rio Coalition, highlights the voices behind this effort, with representatives from Tesuque, Cochiti, San Felipe and Jemez pueblos, as well as other advocates and activists. “I hope that in the future my unborn people 100 years from now can come here and still see petroglyphs; can come out and take medicinal plants that are out here and hopefully there’s wildlife here,” Former Tesuque Gov. Mark Mitchell says in one of the stories. The site also offers a “field trip” to the area and an introduction to its wildlife and cultural resources.
Cultured magazine’s ongoing Mundo Makers series highlights contemporary artists reimagining Latinx identity as part of Latinx/ National Hispanic Heritage Month (through Oct. 15). This week, the series spotlights Albuquerque native Joanna Keane Lopez, whose family lineage traces back to a Spanish land grant in Socorro, subsequently named Lópezville. Lopez moved back there when her father gifted her a casita, the story notes, which “led her to reconnect with the deep history of the place.” Lopez became interested in working with adobe as a medium, which she discusses and demonstrates on an accompanying video. “A large part of my practice is about craft architecture related to land,” she says. “I would like my work to really show that adobe or earth or working with natural materials really are viable materials, especially within the contemporary art world, and that my work is a continuation of craft within vernacular architectural techniques that relate into sculptural elements and installation.”
Come for the tequila, stay for the bird-watching
Lifestyle/fashion website The Zoe Report proclaims a “road trip to Taos and Santa Fe should be on everyone’s fall bucket list,” with writer Nicole Kliest opining the state’s “ineffable beauty is best experienced with a car.” To that end, Kliest provides a road guide of sorts, which includes the requisite drink recommendations: tequila tasting at Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, for example, or a Last Night In Oaxaca cocktail at SkyFire Restaurant (presumably not before driving), along with suggestions for food, including green chile fries and fajitas at The Artesian restaurant in Ojo Caliente. The story’s itinerary winds through Santa Fe before embarking on the High Road to Taos, with suggestions for accommodations, art and shopping along the way. Meanwhile, Silver City fan Ann Bush recommends that city in a story for Travel Awaits, which she describes as “an off-the-beaten-path gem.” Recs for Silver City include a stay at Bear Mountain Lodge, donated years ago to the Nature Conservancy, where guests can enjoy “trails, a meditation labyrinth, a barn full of chickens and a cranky donkey that lets you pet him once in a while.” The story also recommends visiting for the Gila River Festival, “One Water, Many Currents,” which kicks off today through Sept. 25, featuring speakers, hikes and bird-watching (if you can’t make it to Silver City, it appears some of the talks will stream on the festival’s Facebook page).
Fall equinox weather
National Weather Service forecasts a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after noon, on this, the first day of autumn. Otherwise, it will be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 71 degrees and southeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Chances for rain rise to 60% tonight, mostly before midnight.