Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) just released its budget request for the New Mexico Legislature, which the Department says it will use to continue to prop up expanded pandemic-era social programs. HSD wrote in a press release that it is “requesting a budget of $1.6 billion that will leverage an additional $8.4 billion in federal funds to assist 1,088,981 New Mexicans who will experience significant reductions in Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps) benefits when the COVID-19 Federal Public Health Emergency ends.”
The state portion — $1.6 billion — is a 14.4 percent increase from HSD’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request. In the previous year’s budget, the Department expanded by 22 percent, or $257 million.
HSD wrote in the press release, “The Human Services Department provides services and benefits to 1,088,981 New Mexicans through several programs including: Medicaid, SNAP (food assistance), income supports, behavioral health, financial assistance, utility assistance, and child support.”
“Our mission is to transform the lives of the 1,088,981 New Mexicans we serve through our programs and services, and now we have the opportunity to develop a new Medicaid waiver to drive transformation in healthcare,” said David R. Scrase, M.D., cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Human Services Department.
“HSD has a once in a century opportunity to fund measurable improvements in health outcomes as every state dollar in Medicaid generates an additional $3.52 in a federal match – it’s a great investment that can dramatically strengthen our healthcare system that has served New Mexico so valiantly during the pandemic.”
Although the state claims it wants to focus on fixing New Mexico’s “broken behavioral healthcare system” with the expanded budget request, its own statistics show it only used $7,958,100 of the $1.2 billion in federal COVID relief funds during the 2020-2022 fiscal years. In contrast, it spent $468,965,500 on food stamps during the same period. HSD insists it will use the state money for the following:
- Building on the July launch of 988, the national behavioral health crisis support line, HSD is requesting a statewide expansion of the Crisis Now integrated behavioral health response system that includes Mobile Crisis Teams and Crisis Triage Centers designed to respond to a variety of behavioral health needs safely and effectively. This request will support the development and launch of half of the State’s needed system (two in urban areas, seven in rural areas, and six in frontier areas).
- Implementing Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHCs), a federally recognized model of sustainable and high quality, integrated behavioral health clinics that research demonstrates shows outcomes. The suite of required services for CCBHCs enhances and supports the already established 988 system in NM and will be launched in Eddy, Grant, Lea and Doña Ana counties as the first step towards statewide expansion.
- Raising non-Medicaid behavioral health reimbursement rates from 85 percent of Medicaid to 100 percent, eliminating the discrepancy between payments for services ineligible for Medicaid and/or other forms of insurance. HSD provided 214,951 adults with non-Medicaid behavioral health services from April 2021 – March 2022.
Regarding food stamps, the Department writes, “Benefit enrollment has increased by 20 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. HSD will begin redetermining eligibility for many SNAP and Medicaid customers when the Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends. These redetermination efforts require increased staff capacity and additional IT investments, which is reflected in this request. Importantly, this fiscal year 2024 request brings HSD to a level of staffing needed that will allow HSD to meet federal requirements ensuring timely delivery of benefits and services to our 1,081,988 customers as we unwind from the PHE.”
According to Fiscal Year 2023 estimates, 1,055,525 New Mexicans are on government assistance through New Mexico’s Human Services Department.
New Mexico’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget was $8.5 billion, the largest in state history. During that budget year, the state delved out 11% of the budget to New Mexico’s Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Legislative Finance Committee.