Monday, May 29, 2023

It’s Time We Deliver On Innovative Medicaid Solutions That Support Our Foster Youth


As CEO of New Day Youth and Family Services, I work every day with young people experiencing homelessness. It is no secret that New Mexico has long ranked toward the bottom of the nation in health outcomes. In fact, in 2022 New Mexico ranked 50th in the nation for child well-being. This is an issue our Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has taken head on. Throughout her time in office, she has taken the lead to implement proactive measures that improve the lives of New Mexico's youth. However, we must continue to build on this progress with solutions for all underserved populations – especially our foster youth.

Back in 2020, the Governor signed three bills into law supporting our most vulnerable children. The bills made technical fixes to New Mexico’s Extended Foster Care Act, allowing the state to give more support to extended family and kinship caregivers and making it easier for students who had to change schools to receive partial credit for their hard work. I applaud her for the work that she continues to do to address the social determinants of health and foster system in our system.

To go even further, this past fall the Governor and her administration released a Medicaid managed care RFP to introduce new and transformational practices for 2024 that will “improve access for Members, drive even greater accountability, and promote delivery of quality of care over volume.” This was a welcome step in the right direction that made it clear that the Governor understood there were issues with the current Medicaid managed care system that needed to be addressed in order to improve health outcomes and the futures of all New Mexicans.

With more than three-quarters of New Mexico’s youth covered by Medicaid – many of who are part of the foster care system and the vulnerable populations New Day Youth and Family Services supports – it is vital these individuals have access to specialized services due to increased levels of behavioral health or medical issues they might face. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the biggest need for children and teens in foster care that remains unmet is behavioral health. Services like life skills training, transportation, youth peer support services, and innovative enrollment opportunities are critical to meet our young people where they are.

All New Mexico’s youth should have access to a full suite of connected services so that they can become strong members of society. Many of the issues people faced were being addressed in the RFP that was released this fall.

However, it was recently reported that the RFP for Medicaid Insurers has been paused while the Human Services Department reorganizes. While we understand the need for reorganization, we cannot lose this critical time to plan for the implementation. We need to move forward with the RFP process as soon as possible so new services and approaches are able to be developed and introduced. It is imperative that we continue to address and improve the health and well-being of all New Mexicans, especially for our most vulnerable young people. Time is of the essence.


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