Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena
SANTA FE – A bill to keep New Mexico’s children safe passed Wednesday the House Health and Human Services Committee.
House Bill 500, sponsored by Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Mesilla) and Rep. Willie Madrid (D-Chaparral), would extend the authority of the Children, Youth and Families Department to regulate, inspect, and sanction programs for at-risk youth.
Rep. Willie Madrid
During the committee hearing, members heard heart-wrenching stories of abuse of at-risk youth, bringing to light both the urgency and importance of this legislation.
“The stories we heard in committee today are an example of how our current system has failed to protect some of our most vulnerable New Mexicans,” Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena said. “I am proud to be sponsoring this bill because I believe as legislators we have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure the safety and wellness of children and young people in our state.”
Reports by federal agencies and advocacy groups estimate that there were more than 1,600 incidents of abuse and 300 deaths in 33 states leading up to efforts to regulate the industry in 2005.
Programs for at-risk youth, often referred to as the troubled-teen industry, include residential, wilderness, or boot camp programs that serve children or teens with behavioral or emotional disturbances, or history of involvement with the juvenile justice system.
House Bill 500 now moves to the House State Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee for consideration.