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Autism support takes back seat to ideology

When the going gets tough, Gov. Susana Martinez and her administration do not hesitate to put the profits of big corporations ahead of vulnerable New Mexicans – even those living with severe autism.

Last month, it was reported that the Department of Health’s Developmental Disabilities Supports Division cut funding to support programs for kids and adults with autism, putting the blame on legislators because their budget had been cut by $5 million.

But the Legislature didn’t cut DOH funding – Gov. Martinez did when she mandated that all departments take a 5 percent cut before this year’s Legislative session, leaving an already shortchanged department in even more dire straits.

Since then, the governor recommended DOH take an additional 1.1 percent reduction for fiscal ’18 funding when she proposed her budget in February. And to put the cherry on top, DOH decided that out of all the programs it funds, autism-support programs were the ones to receive cuts and elimination.

So where does that leave New Mexicans living with autism, a condition that now affects 1 in 68 children? With even fewer programs and services they so desperately need to lead a healthy and happy life.

As someone who has raised a child with autism, I know firsthand what the parents of these kids must be going through right now. I have worked side by side with other parents to secure funding for much-needed autism support programs and served on the board of the New Mexico Autism Society for many years, including as its president.

And as a state representative, I am appalled that despite the Legislature’s numerous attempts at putting fiscally responsible bills on the governor’s desk that provided much-needed revenue streams by closing corporate tax loopholes, she has continued to put her partisan ideology before the needs of our state’s most vulnerable New Mexicans, including kids and adults with autism.

I am tired of seeing our families get left behind while common-sense solutions are thrown to the wind.

I will never relent in our fight to ensure that New Mexico is a place where every person has access to quality care and the critical services they need. If only we had a governor who was willing to put people before profits.