NM Senate unanimously passes CARA Act

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SANTA FE, N.M. – A bill to help families with substance-exposed babies unanimously passed the Senate floor Monday. It would close gaps the 4 Investigates team exposed with the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act.

It’s the state’s program that aims to keep families together and get them the support they need.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 150, Sen. Gay Kernan, said this would ensure the state has eyes on that baby. 

So families are sent home with a packet full of resources and services from treatment options, counseling, to financial support called a plan of care. But, because participation is voluntary, it’s unclear what happens with those families. The state doesn’t track who ends up accessing those supports, especially in the event the family refuses services.

“We want to be able to be sure that eyes are on that family and do an assessment,” said Kernan.

SB1 50 would close gaps in the original 2019 CARA legislation, requiring CYFD to do an assessment for families to decline those services.

“If we’re not going to remove the child, and that’s what CARA says, we don’t automatically remove the child, then we have to make sure that they do get services. So that the child isn’t in danger,” said Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino during Senate floor debate.

The bill got bipartisan support Monday.

“This is a real common-sense approach in making sure we have eyes on the most vulnerable infants in New Mexico,” said Sen. Katy Duhigg.

With some lawmakers saying the legislation is a good first step.

“What we know is that CYFD has been dropping the ball,” said Sen. Craig Brandt.

KOB asked if CYFD would support this legislation, a spokesperson sent the following statement:

“Senate Bill 150 does not have the funding for the family assessments that would ensure participation in community-based services.  And it would include mandatory assessments that may discourage mothers from seeking the care they need.

Meanwhile, HB 434 is a better approach.  It includes $2.5 million to set up services to help these families.

HB 434 would help connect families with substance-exposed newborns to services in their area. The bill would also provide more training to hospital staff, social workers, protective services staff, home visiting nurses, and early intervention programs.

HB 434 would address families’ and children’s needs not just in the hospital, but once that child goes home.  The purpose of the plan of care in HB 434 is to help parents and caregivers of substance-exposed infants get the help they need – for the safety and well-being of the whole family.”

SB 150 heads to the House for consideration.

Track SB 150 during the legislative session.