More Neglect of DD Waiver Clients. At the New Mexico Human Service and Health Agencies, “It’s Just a Mess All the Way Around.”

“It’s Just a Mess All the Way Around,” was the response The Candle received from an advocate of services for the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled residents of New Mexico.

There are scores of DD Waiver clients, possibly hundreds, who could be negatively affected by the Human Services Department’s failure to get its work done on time.

The Governor and Secretary of Human Services have had their hands on the levers of state government for essentially five years.

New Mexico Human Services Department Kari Armijo and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham need to explain how they missed yet another breakdown in HSD handling of Medicaid certification matters.

Parents and guardians found out “through the grapevine” that scores of DD Waiver clients are officially scheduled to have their services expire on December 31, 2023.

The loss of these services are a possibility despite that fact that these clients have already gotten through the re-certification process and were approved.

When a parent of a young man with severe developmental disabilities, living in a group home, and who is dependent on the state to administer programs established for thousands of New Mexicans reached out to state managers of DD Waiver related services, this was the response he received from Melanie Buenviaje, (the Bureau Chief, Exempt Services & Programs Bureau Medical Assistance Division):

The Candle reached out to Secretary Kari Armijo of the Human Services Department by email and phone to find out what the “leadership” was doing.

She and her communications staff refused to respond to a series of questions.

The Candle learned through a call to a Legislator on Wednesday, that he had called the Secretary to inform her of the problem and ask what the HSD was doing about it.

Others reached out to the HSD leadership and program managers trying to get an answer regarding the status of their clients’ services after December 31, 2023.

(Photo: Secretary Kari Armijo, of the New Mexico Human Services Department.)

Yesterday, after reaching out to several sources, The Candle was told Armijo communicated to some of the providers of the services that HSD would be contacting the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) “this afternoon” seeking an extension to the grace period relative to the recertification process in the unwinding of the Public Health Emergency’s relief during COVID.

But the lateness of the ask for this extension is really inexcusable.

And as of this morning, the agency, along with the Developmental Disabilities Supports Division of the New Mexico Department of Health, have not released any public announcement on their respective websites regarding the problem.

The Candle learned from other communications, that the agency has been aware of the problem since at least early September – and likely as far back as in April.

To make this request of CMS about four days ahead of the Holiday Season, and ten days before some could lose their services, is a clear indication of the indifference of the agency.

Simply put, it is just cruel, especially as everyone has to wait to see if CMS acts in time.

The Candle wrote to Armijo, asking why she waited so long.

No response.

Armijo Has Over Twenty Years with the Human Services Department – She Is Aware of The State’s Ongoing Failures in Administering the Medicaid Processes.

Armijo is the new Secretary-designate of the Human Services Department (HSD).

But she is not new to Medicaid.

She took over for Secretary David Scrase in late February. She worked her way up through HSD.

In the press release Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued announcing Armijo’s appointment to head the agency, the Governor wrote:

““Kari has established herself as a health care expert and innovator during her 20-plus year career in public service,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “She has a big job in front of her – transitioning HSD to the Health Care Authority Department – but her knowledge of New Mexico, the care system and how they interact will serve her, and the state, well going forward.

“Armijo has been with HSD for more than two decades. She has been Acting Secretary for the New Mexico Human Services Department since January 2023. Armijo was the Deputy Secretary for the department from 2020 – 2023. She spent 20 years with the New Mexico Medicaid program and left as the Deputy Director of the program where she served as the Affordable Care Act Implementation Director.”

Armijo had to see this re-certification snafu coming … and if she didn’t then something is seriously wrong.

She has direct authority over the Income Support Division (ISD) of the Human Service Department, where the problems seem to be emanating from, according to the message Melanie Buenviaje to a family advocate.

The ISD of HSD is failing in its core mission.

The Candle found the following from the New Mexico Human Services Department Website:
“The mission of the Income Support Division (ISD) is to relieve, minimize or eliminate poverty and to make available certain services for eligible low-income individuals and families through statewide programs of financial assistance, food assistance, employment assistance and training services.

The types of certification problems currently being experienced are not new, they go back further than even April of this year – like, way back, including during Armijo’s 20 years with the New Mexico Medicaid program.

And when providers and advocates call the agency and its contractors for help they are put on hold for literally hours – and to no avail.

The Secretary, her predecessors, and senior managers at the agency own the problems.

New Mexico’s Human Services Department has a long history of failing the state’s most vulnerable residents, as we will report in the next article on HSD.