The state Children, Youth and Families Department said Friday that it has reduced the peak call wait times at its Statewide Central Intake system from hours to around 20 minutes.
Central Intake is the call center where all calls concerning abuse and neglect are routed and assessed before people are sent out to investigate.
“Reducing wait times as we have, even during our busiest hours, will allow our investigators to get into homes more quickly,” CYFD Deputy Secretary Terry Locke said in a news release. “As always, we encourage anyone to report potential abuse or neglect.”
New Mexico residents can call #SAFE (#7233) from their cellphones or 855-333-SAFE.
Off-peak wait times are even lower via a new triage system instituted by the department. According to the release, the triage system allows callers to speak to a person more quickly; additionally, the department is instituting schedule changes and using different technology to allow CYFD offices across the state to help carry the burden of new cases.
The maximum wait time for calls is expected to continue to improve as these changes and policies are implemented, CYFD said.
The announcement comes one day after child advocates and representatives of nonprofits gathered at the Albuquerque office of CHI St. Joseph’s Children to call for vigilance and action in intervening to prevent tragedies such as the recent spate of violent deaths of children. The “antidote” for these tragedies, they said, is getting all families with small children involved in home visiting programs.
On Friday, it was learned, the 8-year-old girl who was shot and critically injured in a Northeast Albuquerque home on Sunday died in a hospital.
The other victims included an 11-month-old girl who died under suspicious circumstances at a Northeast Heights motel on Tuesday, leading to the arrest of her father; a 5-year-old girl who police said was beaten to death on April 5 by her father in a Southeast Albuquerque apartment; and a 5-year-old boy who was smothered with a pillow on March 31 in Farmington, allegedly by his father, according to police there.
“We grieve the recent deaths,” said CYFD Cabinet Secretary Brian Blalock. “We, as a new leadership team, are constantly looking to learn from the mistakes of the past. The safety and welfare of the children and other victims is and will always be our first priority.”
CYFD in the release also said the Behavioral Healthcare Collaborative, a group of 15 state agencies working to improve the mental health of New Mexico’s children, met Thursday in Santa Fe to discuss recommendations for improving psychiatric care. The group is focusing on early screening, diagnoses and treatment.
“New Mexico’s kids were dealt a heavy blow when over a dozen health care providers were closed without notice in 2013,” Blalock said. “We are committed to contributing every way we can to rebuilding of the network of available doctors, therapists and counselors throughout the state.”