Bill hopes to ensure follow up care for babies with substance exposure

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SANTA FE, N.M. – A bill aimed at improving the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed its first committee Monday.

The idea behind the state’s CARA Program is to provide additional support to families with babies born exposed to substances.

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse testified in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee that the problem is getting worse.

“Now in the unit, we have anywhere from 10 to 12 of these babies at any given time. So the scope of the problem has just exploded,” she said. 

Right now, hospital staff puts together a plan of care to keep that family together and get them the help they need, but the state doesn’t track what happens next.

“Just because they have left the Neonatal Unit, and they’ve withdrawn doesn’t mean they are done withdrawing. They go home, and they still have really high needs,” said Republican state Sen. Gay Kernan.

Kernan says that could mean families are falling through the cracks.

“I want them to participate, but if there’s a refusal there to participate or no follow up then we’re not putting the safety of that baby first,” said Kernan. 

Senate Bill 150 aims to close those gaps – requiring a follow up for families who decline services, and a family assessment from the Children Youth And Families Department.

CYFD is opposing the bill. The agency says it doesn’t have the staff or procedure in place to tackle those assessments. 

Track SB 150 during the legislative session.