Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Guv proposes funds for disabled children

Dentist Albert Brettner with the University of New Mexico has cared for developmentally disabled people for years, and one thing he knows is that finding them health care is a challenge that barely reaches the top of anyone’s priority list.

“It’s under the radar most of the time, because it’s a small amount of people,” he said.

That changed Monday with Gov. Richardson’s announcement of a plan to spend more than $10 million to help children with disabilities.

“I think we can do more to serve kids with disabilities,” Richardson said. “This is a start.”

The proposed expenditures are part of Richardson’s budget requests for the 2007 Legislature, a 60-day session that begins Jan. 17.

They include:

$750,000 to more quickly diagnose disorders by adding staff and operating hours at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center for Development and Disability. The money will also help similar clinics across the state.

$1.25 million to help children with special needs early in their lives, which should improve their health as they grow older. It will go to the New Mexico Department of Health’s Family, Infant and Toddler program.

$1 million to increase training for parents of children with autism, and for specialists who work with autistic children.

$650,000 to add 53 clinics to the 128 serving children with special health care needs in rural New Mexico.

$450,000 to provide services, possibly including dental health services, to children with disabilities who don’t qualify for Medicaid and whose families can’t afford health insurance.

$1.15 million for the Children, Youth and Families Department to boost adoptions of children with special-needs and help the families who adopt them.

Tax credit of $1,000 per special-needs child or $1,700 per family as long as the child is at home. This would come with a cost of about $550,000.

$5 million in capital funds to build an Albuquerque branch of the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Its main campus is in Alamogordo.

For Catherine McClain, director of the UNM Center for Development and Disability, the money would bring clients in the door faster than before.

The money would hire five more staff members, including doctors and therapists. It would also keep the center open three days a week instead of one.

The center has a three-year waiting list with 300 children needing diagnostic tests to determine their disorder.

“I think it’s an indication of the great need out there,” McClain said.

The additional staff and hours would take care of the backlog of children within a year, she said.

“This is huge for us,” McClain said.

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