Two bills have been pre-filed for consideration during the 2014 New Mexico Legislative Session:
House Bill 80 (http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/14%20Regular/bills/house/HB0080.pdf), introduced by Representative Don L. Tripp and endorsed by the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, would appropriate $900,000 to support County and Tribal Health Councils to fund community health needs assessments performed by county and tribal health councils. This bill is will be amended early in the session to read:
“Nine hundred thousand dollars ($900,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the department of health for expenditure in fiscal year 2015 to fund county and tribal health councils to identify local community health needs and to develop strategies to address those needs.”
If passed, this bill will enable New Mexico’s 38 County and Tribal Health Councils to part-time staff support at the local level to strengthen their work in improving the health of New Mexico communities.
New Mexico’s Health Councils were created by the State Legislature in 1991 under the Maternal and Child Health Plan Act, and they received approximately $2.8 million in State funding through the Department of Health until 2010, when the funding was suspended as part of budget cuts brought on the economic downturn. In 2013, the Legislature appropriated $195,000 to the support the health councils in creating brief community health assessments, which are being developed during 2013-14. There are 38 health councilsundefinedin 33 counties and five tribal communities (Acoma, Cochiti, Santa Clara, and San Ildefonso Pueblos, and To’Hajilee).
Since 1991, the health councils have developed scores of new programs and services, built local partnerships and coalitions, helped local governments create policies to improve health, and have brought in millions of dollars in new funding to New Mexico communities, attracting an additional $4 for every $1 received in state funding. They have addressed locally-identified health issues and priorities, including diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, interpersonal violence, emergency preparedness, access to health care services, and many others.
Since their creation by the Legislature, the health councils have served a vital part of New Mexico’s public health system; House Bill 80 will help to provide them with the necessary staffing to meet their full potential and accomplish the work they were created to do.
Senate Bill 68 http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/14%20Regular/bills/house/SB0068.pdf), introduced by Senator Jerry Ortiz & Pino and also endorsed by the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, would appropriate $975,000 to fund the creation and operation of early childhood committees within the County and Tribal Health Councils, and to create a web portal to facilitate referrals and access to early childhood services.
SB80 grew out of recommendations from the J. Paul Taylor Task Force, which was created by the 2012 NM Legislature to prevent child abuse and neglect by creating a statewide system of care for at-risk children and families, using a community health approach. This system of care does not currently exist; SB80 would support the health councils in identifying gaps in services, and in connecting primary and behavioral health care providers to early childhood and other services for at-risk children and families. Communities would be able to design systems of care that are responsive to local needs and that build on community strengths and resources.
A strong and well-functioning system of early childhood and family services not only improves lives; it will save millions of dollars in future costs in health care, social services, law enforcement, and correctional systems. Senate Bill 68 will create early childhood subcommittees of the health councils; provide for the assessment of current services; develop training, referral, and data-sharing systems; and create an efficient, well-functioning system of care.
New Mexico’s health councils are a valuable resource that needs to be preserved and strengthened; both HB80 and SB68 will build on this existing, cost-effective system to improve the health of New Mexico’s families and communities.