Bi-partisan Group of 74 New Mexico Legislators Ask AG to Review State’s Developmental Disabilities Services And Abuse Policies

As the 2024 New Mexico state legislature’s regular session was drawing to a close, a large contingency of Senators and Representatives from both political parties signed a letter to the state’s Attorney General Raúl Torrez asking that his office review Developmental Disability Services and Abuse policies and performance.

The Developmental Disability Waiver (DD Waiver) provides funding for the care and protection of close to 10,000 vulnerable New Mexicans.

Advocates complain that the state agencies are no where near where they need to be in fixing a system that is supposed to protect and serve the people for which the programs exist.

Seventy-four members of the House and Senate signed the letter, including members of the leadership of both political parties.

The legislators’ letter states, “we request that your office conduct an immediate review of the numerous aspects of the DD waiver program to determine whether recipients’ health and well-being are the priorities of the program.”

The legislators asked Torrez to review five key elements of services the state is supposed to provide, including:

1.) The current system of investigation, reporting and referral for prosecution of abuse, neglect and exploitation cases in the state’s developmental disability programs.

2.) How the state conducts reporting of mortality of DD Waiver recipients, including cause of deaths,the degree to which death may have been averted, average life spans of people in the different waiver populations, and effects of long term neglect to determine if the state is providing humane care.

3.) Whether the state agencies are providing fair hearings under state and federal law for clients relative to the availability of needed services.

4.) Review the evidence regarding sufficient provider rates and the ability to provide services in accordance with law.

5.) Review of the actual implementation of the state’s Developmental Disabilities Act to determine if agencies are properly administering programs and involving stakeholders.

Last year, two days after the legislature adjourned for the year, the Governor held a press conference announcing the “horrific abuse” of a DD Waiver client.

The administration was aware of the abuse to Mary Melero for almost three weeks before informing the public, and the Governor also chose not to share the degree of harm done to the client to legislators while they were still in session.

A few weeks later, Mary Melero died.

Attorney General Torrez is prosecuting the abusers and issued a statement in May of last year that included directions he felt the administration needed to take to prevent other occurrences of abuse, neglect and exploitation of the people in the DD Waiver.

Below are copies of the text of the letter signed by Legislators and an accompanying cover letter that was delivered with it to the Offices of the Attorney General.