Political attack ads begin airing in state

Posted at: 01/21/2014 6:33 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Two political ads released on the first day of the legislative session had some truth to them, but important details were also left out.

An ad produced by ProgressNow New Mexico said:

“Every 16 minutes, someone in New Mexico calls CYFD to report an abused or neglected child. As a candidate, Governor Martinez promised to make our children a top priority, but since she took office, our children are waiting longer and longer for help. A new report says 1 in 4 children needing help are waiting more than a month for answers, and hundreds more children continue to be mistreated in dangerous homes. Now we learn the administration hasn’t even filled 100 jobs responsible for protecting our children.

Instead of filling those jobs, Governor took 6 million dollars from CYFD’s budget. Now the legislature wants answers about where those jobs went. But our children shouldn’t have to wait for those hearings.”

The report the ad references was produced by the same group behind the new attack ad. ProgressNow justifies referring to their own report by saying it was based off a “compilation of state and federal documents.”

The ad also claims kids can wait 30 days for help after an abuse claim, but that’s not exactly true. Investigators have 30 days to file paperwork, but in a level-one abuse claim they have to respond in three hours or less.

Here was CYFD’s response to the ad:

· Claim:  Every 16 minutes, someone in NM calls CYFD asking for help for an abuse or neglected child.

· Reality: We are not sure where this statistic comes from.  Our State Central Intake center is open 24/7, 365 days a year.  Over the course of a year, our State Central Intake office will receive almost 60,000 calls.  Of the 60,000 calls received, only about 32,000 are actual calls regarding abuse or neglect.  It seems as though the figure used in the ad is creative number twisting by a leftist organization not interested in facts.

· Claim: A new report states that 1 in 4 children needing help are waiting more than a month for answers

· Reality:  First of all, the “new report” was created by the same group responsible for this inaccurate ad. The “report” is completely inaccurate on its face. All reports that come into CYFD’s State Central Intake line are screened and prioritized based on the type of report that is made.  There are 3 different priority levels and each report is assigned its own priority level.  The three priority levels are emergency, priority 1 and priority  2.  The emergency level report is always responded to immediately.  Priority 1 level reports are responded to within one day and priority 2 reports are responded to within 5 days.  To say that reports do not get responded to for 30 days is absolutely ludicrous and comes from somebody trying to interpret data they don’t understand, or somebody willfully trying to mislead New Mexicans.

· Claim:  Administration hasn’t filled more than 100 jobs responsible for protecting our children.

· Reality:  Since 2011, the Administration has aggressively hired new child welfare caseworkers, hiring 309 case workers in the Protective Services Division. During the same time 293 caseworkers have left the agency and moved on to other opportunities.  Governor Martinez’s budget proposal increases pay for public safety workers, including child abuse caseworkers. In some cases, workers might get as much as an 8% pay increase, rather than the small across-the-board increases proposed by others.

Another ad, produced by New Mexicans Fighting to Save Behavioral Health, said:

“We were robbed of our constitutional rights! The New Mexico Human Services Department has shut down 15 behavioral health agencies on the basis of a questionable audit alleging fraud. The results are still secret and the agencies have not been allowed to defend themselves. Their operations were turned over to Arizona companies that required only a fraction of the displaced New Mexico employees. Thousands of clients have suffered service disruptions. We must do everything in our power to ensure transparency in government so that tragedies like this never happen again. Call your state legislator now and demand the rights of due process and timely appeals for all our healthcare providers.  We must protect those that defend our most vulnerable citizens, because an effective behavioral health system is the cornerstone of a healthy society. Paid for by New Mexicans fighting to save behavioral health.”

The ad claims the audit was kept secret, but that’s only somewhat true. The department released portions of the report, but withheld others.

The Human Services Department sent a statement, saying:

“We absolutely dispute that consumers are going without services - this is simply untrue and is a scare tactic.  We've used claims data, tracked emergency room admissions for behavioral health services, and tracked the number of calls to our crisis line, and consumers have been receiving treatment at the same rate prior to agency transitions. If we hear of any problems, we immediately handle those with each individual consumer. We have an obligation to protect taxpayer funds, and the Optum report, along with the PCG audit, found significant over billing for services, along with suspect business practices and numerous whistleblower complaints. We will continue to protect those funds for our most vulnerable New Mexicans. 

In addition, we would love nothing more than to release the audit. It has not been released because the Attorney General has claimed a law enforcement exemption due to active criminal investigations with regard to these agencies.”