As of August 2021, the Human Services Department provides services and benefits to 1,034,042 New Mexicans through several programs including: the Medicaid Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Child Support Program and several Behavioral Health Services.
The department is proposing 14 program expansions and changes that are designed to improve programs and services to New Mexicans, such as extending post-partum Medicaid benefits, implementing evidence-based and trauma responsive behavioral healthcare, and developing a Crisis Now System of Care to promote use of 988, a nationwide mental health crisis and suicide prevention number to redirect 35 percent of behavioral health calls from 911 in the first year.
The department’s combined state and federal funded budget request of $9.179 billion reflects the budgetary and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, including anticipated unemployment rates that are expected to be twice pre-pandemic levels, and each program’s request is directly connected to the department’s mission and goals.
“The pandemic has changed all of our lives and created an unprecedented public health crisis that required emergency measures to help disadvantaged New Mexico families. HSD applied for multiple COVID-19 program related federal waivers to expand our access and provide urgently needed healthcare, cash and food assistance,” said Dr. Scrase, cabinet secretary for the Human Services Department. “For example, our telemedicine expansion allowed tens of thousands of New Mexicans to continue to receive physical and behavioral health services when in person visits were not possible.”
The agency’s general fund request of $1.260 billion proposes strategic investments that will provide health coverage for a projected enrollment growth of 957,000 New Mexicans in fiscal year 2023, over 44 percent of the state’s population through the Medicaid program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Medicaid is the largest healthcare payer in the state of New Mexico. Enrollment has grown by over 100,000 New Mexicans who have enrolled in the program since February 2020, exceeding previous pandemic projections.
“The $1.260 billion general fund investment in Medicaid brings $6.123 billion federal dollars to New Mexico,” said Nicole Comeaux, director of the New Mexico Medicaid program. “This is an excellent return on our state general fund that will ensure healthcare services to over 900,000 vulnerable New Mexicans.
Medicaid’s Program Expansions
- Extend post-partum Medicaid benefits from 60-days to 12-months. Currently, Medicaid finances 71 percent of all births in New Mexico. Extending post-partum benefits will improve the quality of pre- and post-natal care, birth outcomes and improve how we measure care delivered to pregnant and postpartum mothers.
- Enhance health information exchange data to deliver high-value interoperability services to achieve greater value and improved outcomes for health care teams, providers, and patients across New Mexico.
The $19.8 million general fund technology investment garners a $38.6 million federal match. This includes funding systems for maintenance and operations, security software to protect systems and customers from unauthorized access and decreasing the vacancy rate by filling four positions that were not previously funded. The request represents the high priority on informational technology to reduce overall costs, improve operational efficiencies and to better serve over one-million New Mexicans who utilize human services programs.
“The technology investments in infrastructure, applications and new projects will deliver new capabilities and services to the department’s more than one-million customers and 1,730 employees,” said Kari Armijo, deputy secretary of the Human Services Department.
The department submitted two business cases for the following information technology requests:
HHS 2020 MMISR Project
- The $8.4 million general fund investment has a $68.04 million federal match. The Health and Human Services (HHS) 2020 initiative contains multiple projects, including the Medicaid Management Information System Replacement (MMISR) and is designed to create a “one-stop shop” — whether online, on the phone, or in an office. The public will have a single point of contact to access resources and services for any health and human services agency, benefit or program. The Aging and Long-Term Services Department, Children, Youth, and Families Department, Department of Health, and the Early Childhood Education and Care Department are all participating in the HHS 2020 MMISR project. The federal government provides 90 percent enhanced funding for the MMISR project for Medicaid functions.
- Child Support Enforcement System Replacement/Modernization Project
- A general fund backing of $4.88 million brings a federal match of $16.14 million. The investment works toward the replacement and modernization of a 25-year-0ld child support enforcement system that is outdated and nearing end of life.
Information Technology’s Program Expansion
- Improvements to the Automated System Program and Eligibility Network (ASPEN) system that will enhance Medicaid real time eligibility determinations from 23 percent to 40 percent of all Medicaid applications and will save 9,910 hours for eligibility workers equivalent to 1,321 workdays saved.
Behavioral Health Services Division
The Behavioral Health Services Division is focused on building a new behavioral healthcare system in New Mexico through its various programs. The $78.2 million behavioral health investment is supported by $48.4 million from the general fund and $29.86 million in federal funds.
Behavioral Health’s Program Expansions
- Implement evidence-based and trauma responsive behavioral healthcare by enhancing substance use disorder treatment and other evidence-based treatment modalities – to include expanding behavioral health training in partnership with the Higher Education Department to train 500 practitioners in the first year.
- Develop a Crisis Now System of Care to promote the use of 988, a nationwide mental health crisis and suicide prevention number to redirect 35 percent of behavioral health calls from 911 in the first year.
- Establish a Behavioral Health Collaborative Office to expand the behavioral health network. Currently there are 317 providers that serve 31,473 clients. We want to make access easier and ensure fiscal responsibility.
- Increase rates for non-Medicaid behavioral health service providers by raising reimbursement rates from 70 percent of Medicaid to 85 percent which will remedy the discrepancy between payments for services ineligible for Medicaid and/or other forms of insurance.
Child Support Enforcement Division
The $8.37 million child support general fund budget request has a $24.936 million federal match. The new modern child support guidelines became effective July 1, 2021, and focus on parents’ ability to pay, which national studies show result in more consistent child support payments.
Child Support’s Program Expansions
- Allow the child support program to pass through intercepted funds to families first rather than collect Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program debt. By absolving $1.7 million in TANF program recoveries with general fund, it’s estimated as much as $6.96 million will be distributed to former TANF families through child support.
- Create a Modern Child Support Families Campaign (TV/Radio) to build awareness and inform child support families about recent changes that have been made to adapt to the needs of New Mexico’s modern families.
Income Support Division
Income support provides services to New Mexicans through several programs including food Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Low Income Home Energy Assist Program (LIHEAP) and other various programs. The $54.9 million general fund request is also supported by $1,026.1 billion in federal funds.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides food assistance for New Mexico families and is 100 percent federally funded. Since March of 2020, SNAP households have received the maximum food benefit. The Pandemic-EBT program has compensated 513,000 students ($5.70) per meal for free or reduced-price school meals that they missed during remote learning. These increases were made to help reduce food insecurity for New Mexicans during the pandemic. The SNAP federal budget is $756.4 million.
Income Support Division’s Program Expansions
- Establish a state funded transition bonus cash assistance for New Mexicans that receive support from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. This will reduce the cliff effect for an estimated 392 newly employed families on the program by providing an 18-month incentive bonus while they lose benefits due to increased earnings.
- Provide real-time SNAP error trends and risk factors, and address errors through automation. SNAP quality improvement will result in 25 percent reduction in agency errors, generating estimated $2,216,100 general fund savings.
The Human Services Department budget request focuses on providing health and needed human services programs to address the critical and dire needs of individuals and families across New Mexico during the unpresented COVID-19 public health crisis that has impacted nearly every aspect of life for people in New Mexico and throughout the world.