New Mexico leaders seek CARA reforms to support families and children

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — 4 Investigates has extensively covered the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, also known as CARA. Many believe the state law that passed in 2019 has not only fallen short of expectations, but has created an even bigger gap for families and children to fall into.

On Friday, state leaders addressed both short and long-term fixes at a roundtable event.

“Up to 20% of the kids are substance exposed,” a Presbyterian NICU nurse said, advocating for change. “I’ve done this for 37 years and this has never been the case.”

CARA eliminated the child abuse reporting requirement by hospitals – instead, families are given a plan of care. However, the goal of getting families the necessary help has fallen short.

State leaders from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, the Department of Health, Human Services, and beyond say they are working on a solution to ensure families and babies are getting the support they need.

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

Casados says the CARA program will move under a new Family Services division, where they plan to budget for 35 new employees. In the meantime, Human Services is making immediate changes in how they serve those families.

“We are going to be requiring initiation of in-person care coordination at hospitals, the biggest hospitals in New Mexico where babies are born,” said Kari Armijo, secretary with the Human Services Department. “Sometimes we do lose contact with the mom or guardian when they leave the hospital, so we’re really going to put boots on the ground so we get out there and make sure we reach those members.”