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"Brain Gain?" Research shows rural population is actually growing, especially in recreational areas; other small towns are having success offering relocation incentives like free building lots, cash, complimentary dinners and even internet credits; and researchers say the key is flexibility and creativity.

NM Labor Shortage Putting People with Developmental Disabilities at Risk


Thursday, October 13, 2022   

Come next year, people with developmental disabilities in New Mexico may not be able to find the help they need - because of a severe labor shortage in the field.

Agencies are struggling to find workers to staff group homes, help with daily living, help clients find jobs, and more.

Jim Copeland, executive director of the Association of Developmental Disability Community Providers in New Mexico, said the state needs to increase the amount it reimburses providers - so the agencies can pay workers more per hour - and thus attract and retain more employees.

"The citizens of New Mexico have made a commitment to families and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities," said Copeland, "to provide the necessary supports to allow them to live their best lives. And I think we have to live up to that commitment, whatever the cost."

And the pressure on the industry is about to get worse. The feds raised reimbursement rates during COVID through the American Rescue Plan, but rates are expected to fall once the public health emergency ends.

At the same time, the state of New Mexico has vowed to provide services for all 4,200 people on the developmental disability waiver waitlist by next spring - so they are bracing for a flood of new clients.

Copeland said developmental disability services have been underfunded for decades. Providers are asking the state for almost $18 million in the next budget - a 17% increase.

Otherwise, he said, more providers will reduce services or close.

"Families will be impacted," said Copeland. "If they have a child that needs residential support, they may or may not be able to find that group home in their local community. They may be able to find one several hours away."

The state Department of Health is currently preparing its budget request, which will be considered by the governor and the Legislature next spring.

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