LAS CRUCES — Sounding the alarm that New Mexico’s pipeline for services to residents with developmental disabilities is underfunded and clogged, Tresco CEO Chris Boston announced Wednesday that the provider is putting end of its contract with the state Department of Health after more than five decades.
In a press conference conducted by video, Boston said, “The system is in distress.”
Tresco, Inc., a nonprofit organization that began life as the Open Door Center in Las Cruces in 1968, offers three lines of services in southern New Mexico: job search for adults with disabilities, service for children with disabilities and home visiting services for clients with behavioral difficulties. or medical support needs.
Boston said Tresco’s services for the state’s Home and Community Services program have been chronically underfunded, forcing Tresco to subsidize its own services from proceeds from its other two lines of business. amounting to over $12.2 million over the past 10 years.
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Boston said Tresco has notified the health department that it will be terminating its supplier contract effective June 30, giving 120 days notice.
“Funding for this program has been inadequate for decades,” Boston said, complaining that employees provided services under difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances but were paid an average of less than $12 an hour.
“We are unable at this time to hire a skilled, stable workforce to supplement our incredible and absolutely selfless workforce,” Boston said.
Other Tresco services will remain active.
Boston called a waiver system “unsafe” with a waiting list of 4,600 people typically waiting more than 12 years for services. Boston said 111 state suppliers, including Tresco, weren’t accepting new customers because they were understaffed and under-resourced, leaving 86 suppliers to shoulder a heavier burden.
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In the meantime, Boston said Tresco staff affected by its decision could continue to work through one of its other service lines or move to jobs with other providers. As for clients who are currently receiving services at home, he said: “The tragedy is that their home, which they have called home for all these years, is going away.”
He said efforts to secure funds to pay career salaries for professionals have repeatedly been unsuccessful. “We’ve been ignored by the Legislative Assembly, we’ve been ignored by governors…not just one governor but all of the governors. There’s a lot of people who haven’t paid attention to our plight.”
During the recent legislative session, he lamented that $17.4 million allocated to the state’s Developmental Disabilities Support Division was, once again, not intended to increase compensation for workers providing services.
In the Las Cruces and Socorro areas, 63 customers will be affected along with 106 employees providing services to them, Boston said.
“Unfortunately, Tresco’s situation is not unique,” DDSD Director Jason Cornwell said in a written statement. “Many DD waiver providers continue to struggle with escalating costs due to the labor crisis and pandemic-related expenses.”
Cornwell said the state’s Department of Health and Human Services are planning additional financial support for agencies from federal COVID-19 stimulus funds over three years and that an additional $10.4 million for services in fiscal year 2023 awaited Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature.
“Both initiatives will be completed by July 1, 2022 and will provide much-needed relief to the DD waiver system,” Cornwell wrote.
Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, email@example.com or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.