New program helps NM moms needing treatment

The Roundhouse. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – About 1,000 moms with newborns have participated this year in a new state program that calls for them to receive a plan of care – rather than face punitive measures – if they’ve exposed their child to addictive substances while pregnant, health care officials said Thursday.

Each plan of care is aimed at addressing the treatment needs of the child or parent, coordinating their health care and offering other supportive services.

In a presentation to legislators, Trisstin Maroney, a physician and supervisor in the state Children, Youth and Families Department, said the program is part of a broad effort within the agency to focus on preventing child abuse and neglect rather than just removing a child from the home after the fact.

“We have started to see a shift in the way we see these families,” Maroney told the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.

Legislation passed last year, House Bill 230, calls for health care providers to alert CYFD when, say, an infant tests positive for addictive substances – with the goal of allowing the department to assess the family situation and provide help, without the opening of a formal abuse or neglect case.

The new law clarifies that a pregnant woman’s disclosure that she has used drugs isn’t reason alone to trigger the filing of a child abuse or neglect report with CYFD.

Once discharged from the hospital, the family’s compliance with the plan of care is monitored. It’s voluntary, but it’s rare for a family to refuse the plan, officials said.

The most common substances that trigger the issuance of a care plan are marijuana and meth, according to Thursday’s testimony.

Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, said it was shocking to hear the number of care plans being issued each month. She requested more data showing how many families comply with the plan and how effective the services are.

“We can’t leave another generation behind,” Dow said. “I want data, not anecdotal information.”

Andrew Hsi, a physician and professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, said the families are monitored for about a year. Much of the work is handled by primary care doctors and other health care providers, he and other supporters of the law said.

“For the most part, to our knowledge, families aren’t disappearing into the ether,” Hsi said, “though there are some who are difficult to track. The majority of families and babies are being monitored.”

Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, an Albuquerque Democrat who presided over Thursday’s meeting, said lawmakers should consider earmarking specific funding to help the program. It’s now being funded generally out of the CYFD budget.

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