Guardians of Disabled and Elderly Unable to Gain Essential Worker Status from Lujan Grisham Administration During COVID Pandemic

“During the pandemic public health emergency, professional guardians repeatedly expressed deep concerns about their lack of access to their PP [Protected Persons] and inability to gain essential worker status because they could not adequately serve or protect their PP. I strongly urge that we listen to their concerns now.”

Such was what can be best described as a tactful admonition expressed at the end of a March 22, 2023, email from the executive director of the New Mexico agency that runs the guardianship program to then Aging and Long-Term Services Department Katrina Hotrum-Lopez and newly appointed Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen regarding the way the Lujan Grisham administration was handling protective care matters exposed as a result of the abuse and subsequent death of Mary Melero – a person who the state was supposed to be protecting.

The email was copied to Teresa Casados, then a senior official to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, as well as to the Governor’s General Counsel, Holly Agajanian.

The Candle received a copy of the email via a response to an Inspection of Public Records Request made of the Governor’s office.

It was sent by attorney Alice Liu McCoy, Executive Director of the Developmental Disabilities Council, which oversees the Office of Guardianship (OOG).

The OOG, according to its website, “is a statewide publicly funded program for New Mexican adults who need a Guardian, are income eligible, and are alleged to be incapacitated.”

McCoy also wrote to the two Secretaries that, “Professional guardians are some of the most knowledgeable professionals in our disability service provider system. They interact with every aspect of every system that affects their PP. They are in tune with the needs of their PP, and they are legally responsible for ensuring each of their PP are safe and healthy.

It is not clear from the email, as to how long guardians were unable to gain status as essential workers, but it seems that for a substantial period of time, if not throughout the public health emergency, people for whom courts had established guardianship measures were denied critical oversight protections.

The Candle has submitted a subsequent Inspection of Public Records Act request seeking all communications related to concerns about guardians’ lack of access and inability to gain essential worker status to the individuals for whom they were responsible to serve and protect.

There will be additional reporting by The Candle on this matter.

Here is a copy of the email in its entirety: