Legislative committee talks CARA program reforms

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – On the heels of an Albuquerque town hall, New Mexico state lawmakers are learning more about the state’s new plan to improve the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, or CARA.

“It was a very telling presentation. In my mind, it sounded good. In the mind of the audience, it sounded terrible, I’ll just say that right off the bat,” said state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino. 

Legislation passed in 2019 was aimed at keeping drug-exposed babies and families together while getting them the help they need. But the process is complicated, over the years more and more families were falling through the cracks.

“There has not actually been a program developed in the state of New Mexico to deal with the issue,” said CYFD Secretary Teresa Casados. 

On Friday, secretaries from five state agencies briefed the community, offering details on reorganizing the program under CYFD’s new Family Services Division. Also, plans on making sure the state isn’t losing contact with families or children.

But lawmakers still have a bunch of questions.

“A lot of links in the chain and I don’t have a lot of confidence they’ll be able to do the handoff,” said state Sen. Martin Hickey. 

Instead of state officials, Ortiz y Pino presented an overview of that roundtable.

“We all know how important this is. This has been top subject matter in the Legislature and the news, and you’re here. Not the five cabinet secretaries, not the agencies and I am disappointed in that. This has been on the agenda longer than their roundtable has been on the agenda,” said state Rep. Kathleen Cates. 

Lawmakers are hoping to get more of an update within the next month or two.

In the meantime, CYFD announced plans to hire an additional 35 workers focused on CARA. That would have to be approved in the budgeting process of the upcoming session.