Sen. Padilla Requests Independent Investigation into the Death of Victoria Martens

 

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Mobile: 505/264.6512
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sen. Padilla Requests Independent Investigation into the Death of Victoria Martens

Santa Fe- Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla (D-14-Bernalillo) requested Attorney General Hector Balderas conduct an independent investigation into the death of Victoria Martens. A letter, making the request, was sent to the Attorney General and is attached to this communication.

“The alleged details surrounding the death of Victoria Martens may be the worst crime in New Mexico history, and it demands action,” said Sen. Padilla. “I am asking Attorney General Hector Balderas to appoint a non-partisan independent blue ribbon commission, or similar committee, of former members of the New Mexico judiciary to investigate this matter as soon as possible.”

After the death of Omaree Varela, the state was assured that the Children Youth and Family Department (CYFD) would make changes to protect New Mexico’s children. On April 2, 2014, Governor Martinez stated, “For any family in New Mexico that has faced two CYFD investigations, whether abuse or neglect was substantiated or not, I am directing CYFD to perform a supervisory high-level review involving that family.”

“At the conclusion of this independent investigation I am asking that the Attorney General provide the results, along with a set of recommendations, to my office and all other members of leadership of the New Mexico Legislature,” said Senator Padilla.

Media outlets have reported that at least two reports were made to CYFD about Victoria Martens. This investigation will determine if all processes were followed, including a supervisory high-level review of the family.

After Martinez removed the previous CYFD Secretary following serious problems at the agency, she was replaced with a new secretary, Monique Jacobson, who had no experience in child protective services. Following Secretary Jacobson’s appointment, Legislative Finance Committee staff recommended, during the 2015 Session, that CYFD create 66 new positions to investigate child abuse. Secretary Jacobson did not agree that 66 new positions were needed and sided with the Department of Finance and Administration’s request for only 45 new positions, a 32% reduction verses the recommendation. Eventually, 45 new positions were created.

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Tougher Penalties Don’t Address the Causes of Crimes

Tougher Penalties Don’t Address the Causes of Crimes

by Rory Rank, Attorney at Law, Las Cruces, NM

Published in the Albuquerque Journal, September 19, 2016

 The Journal’s editorial calling for tougher criminal penalties has crystallized its primary objective: the defeat of Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature.  It is premised on an emotional, misdirected response to recent, horrific tragedies.  It is also designed to deflect attention from the causes of these tragedies and inaccurately portray the motivation and character of Senate Democrats at the polls, just one month before voting begins.  They have been a target of the Journal editorial writers before, but this time the Journal’s political and personal assassination attempt has exceeded the bounds of journalistic integrity and fair comment.

New Mexico certainly has its problems with crime that call out for effective solutions.  But had the Journal chosen to think through these problems logically, and to publish a rational editorial on the subject, it would have taken data and evidence into account.  A National Research Council report from 2014, for instance, drawing on significant research, concluded that lengthy prison sentences are ineffective in reducing crime:

  • In Virginia, an analysis of the imposition of severe punishments for gun crimes found “the threat of enhanced sentences had no apparent deterrent effect.”
  • Teens didn’t commit significantly fewer crimes after they turned 18, even though the severity of punishments increased.
  • A California law requiring sentences of 25 years for three-strike offenders had minimal deterrent effect, not enough to justify the increased costs of incarceration.

The Journal claims that two horrific crimes would not have occurred if Senate Democrats had approved criminal legislation it supports.   This is an absurd assertion, without merit.  How would requiring Jessica Kelley to provide her phone and address to local police have deterred her from participating in a horrific crime against a ten-year old?  And the 2016 three-strikes bill the Journal supported would not have applied in the case of alleged cop-killer Andrew Romero that occurred in 2015.

Senate Democrats are not weak on crime.  They are concerned with the public’s safety.  If it were interested in being objective, the Journal would have conceded that Senate Democrats have in fact supported and passed numerous legislation to crack down on criminals.  During the 2016 meeting of the legislature alone, Senate Democrats – and Michael Sanchez – voted to increase penalties for the possession, distribution and manufacture of child pornography. They toughened penalties for sexual exploitation of children by prostitution, by removing the present statute’s age restrictions.  And they passed legislation that allows the records of youthful offenders to be used when judges consider bail for adults.  But these facts don’t fit the Journal’s narrative.

Were the editorial writers serious about deterring crime, rather than politicizing the issue, perhaps they would have opined strongly in favor of policies to  reduce criminal behavior, like bold early education investments in children – greater efforts to get kids going in the right direction when they are young, before they turn to a life of crime; providing more well trained law cops on the streets of  cities to stop crime, and making substantially increased investments in substance abuse treatment and behavioral health.

On the law enforcement side, the Journal writers could have come out for far better funding for the whole range of criminal justice system inputs – the courts, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, social workers, and post-release programs.  For the Journal, deterring crime, simplistically, came down to two flawed bills that would not have deterred the tragedies the editorial writers blamed on Democratic legislators.

The truth is, our state already has ample laws to lock up bad guys, and keep them locked up.  It’s a matter of all parts of the criminal justice system functioning in unison.  If simply imposing stiffer penalties were the solution, we would have little crime in New Mexico.   Truth is, stiffer penalties do not necessarily make us safer.  It is easy to grandstand on crime when you’re not the person making the tough decisions and can remain anonymous when opining.  The Journal should not be advocating for policies and politicians that hobble effective government.

http://www.pressreader.com/usa/albuquerque-journal/20160919/281715499085265

Senator Michael Sanchez Praises Supreme Court Ruling

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Mobile: 505/264.6512
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senator Michael Sanchez Praises Supreme Court Ruling

Santa Fe- Today Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29- Bernalillo and Valencia) praised the recent unanimous State Supreme Court ruling that substantially expanded voting rights and will increase participation in elections. The New Mexico Compilation Commission had maintained that certain ballot initiatives needed 75% of the vote to be enacted. The State Supreme Court ruled that a simple majority was needed for the measures to be implemented.

The three ballot measures that will expand voting rights include Senator Michael Sanchez’s measure to allow school board elections to be held at the same time as non-partisan elections, Senator Howie Morales’s (D-28-Catron, Grant and Socorro) measure to extend the right to vote to felons after they complete their sentence and Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto’s (D-15-Bernalillo) measure to replace laws banning “idiots” and “insane persons”.

“School board elections are expensive and have a history of low participation, but soon it will be possible to hold them at the same time as nonpartisan elections,” said Senator Sanchez. “This will increase participation, save money and is great for democracy in New Mexico.”

The rule to hold school board elections separate from other elections dates back to 1910 when women in New Mexico were only allowed to vote in school board elections. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution gave all women the right to vote in 1920.

“Expanding voter participation in New Mexico is something I have fought for since I entered the Senate,” said Sen. Sanchez. “I will continue to fight for the rights of New Mexicans as long as I have the privilege to serve.”

The State Legislature still needs to pass a law that allows school board elections to be held at the same time as non-partisan elections such as city council, community college and water district elections.

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Letter to the Editor by Senator Padilla: State Budget Crisis Requires Responsible Cuts and Reliable Revenue Sources

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Mobile: 505/264.6512
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: State Budget Crisis Requires Responsible Cuts and Reliable Revenue Sources

September 12, 2016

Letter Submitted by Senator Michael Padilla, Majority Whip

New Mexico is facing a budget crisis of historic proportions, one that must be dealt with now, not later.  The state budget crisis requires responsible cuts and reliable revenue sources.

For reasons that are difficult to fathom, the Governor and her Republican allies in the House of Representatives have been downplaying the seriousness of the budget crisis.  Both the Governor and the Legislature have an obligation to fix the problem, not to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Now is the time for democrats and republicans to come together to solve this problem.

It takes a special session to fix the budget, and most legislators of both parties are waiting anxiously for the Governor to convene one.  That constitutional power lies with her alone. The severity of the state’s shortfall has been known for several months yet no date has been announced.

The root of the problem is that the Governor’s administration overspent by more than $1 billion during the past two fiscal years.  Clear indications that revenues would fall were ignored.  Partly due to low oil and gas prices globally, it appears state tax revenue will be $431 million less than was budgeted for this year alone. We also learned recently that the state actually spent $220 million more than it took in for the fiscal year that just ended on June 30th.

Efforts over the past few years to create more jobs that pay good wages in New Mexico have been ineffective.  After all, good-paying jobs lead to more state and local revenues.  During both the Martinez and the Richardson administrations, huge tax breaks were handed out to big, out-of-state corporations and the highest income earners.  Those tax cuts didn’t create any jobs, as was promised, and we can no longer afford them.  Now the state is not collecting enough money to cover our important expenses like public education, health care, and public safety.

What our state needs urgently is a responsible plan to address both our short and long term budget challenges.  We can no longer delay.  To fix the immediate problems, the Governor must call a special session of the Legislature now.  Then, we must make responsible spending cuts that do not exacerbate our problems, nor harm essential government services.  Recent news that the District Attorney in Roswell has announced staff cuts because of the state’s inability to help with pay could be our future if this crisis is not solved now.

To deal with our long term priorities in the future, we need fiscally reliable budgets that are based on dependable revenue streams that will remain steady from year to year and not be dependent on global oil and gas fluctuations. If we do not do it, eventually the price will be major cuts to public services and huge layoffs down the road.  Strategies that do not work should also be eliminated.

Senate Democrats want a brief special session to address one issue: the urgent budget crisis that faces our state. It was alarming to see the Governor now floating the idea of adding other items, such as reinstating the death penalty, to a special session agenda.  Surely, that can only be meant to distract attention from the economic crisis created under her watch. To be contemplating any policy items other than fixing the budget shortfall is irresponsible.

While brevity is a virtue during special sessions of the Legislature, the public has a right to transparency as these important decisions that may affect their lives are made.  Senate Democrats want the debate over solutions to these serious budget challenges to be done in public, and with full debate – not behind closed doors.

As the state’s top Executive, it is really up to Gov. Martinez to propose a plan to address the state’s budget crisis.  That’s what governors do.  What’s your plan, Governor?  And when is the special session?

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Senator Padilla Blasts Gov. Martinez’s Attempt to Divert Attention from Failing Economy, Budget and Schools Crisis’ with Push for Death Penalty

Contact: Isaac Padilla
505/264.6512
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senator Padilla Blasts Gov. Martinez’s Attempt to Divert Attention from Failing Economy, Budget and Schools Crisis’ with Push for Death Penalty

(Santa Fe, NM) –Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla (D-14-Bernalillo) today sharply criticized Governor Susana Martinez’s recent announcement that she will make it a priority to reinstitute the death penalty in New Mexico during the next legislative session in January.  He called it a cynical attempt to distract attention from the real problems of growing unemployment, K-12 classrooms ranked 50th worst, and a pressing state budget shortfall.  The death penalty was abolished in 2009 after years of public discussion and debate.   Despite having been long resolved, the Governor made the surprise announcement on the issue suddenly last week in the midst of a flurry of bad reports for the state.

“Our greatest desire is for democrats and republicans to come together for our state and solve serious issues with bipartisan solutions,” said Sen. Padilla. “At a time when New Mexico is seeing increasing unemployment rates, now at 6.4 percent, Governor Martinez instead chooses to focus on reinstating the death penalty, when we should have a laser focus on creating jobs, improving our schools, and solving our state budget crisis.”

The Governor certainly had reasons to try to change the subject with her call for reinstatement of the death penalty:

The U.S. Labor Department released official figures on Friday showing that New Mexico’s unemployment rate rose from 6.2 to 6.4 percent last month, still among the worst in the nation. By comparison, the national unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent.  The state remains stalled at 50th in job growth.

On Thursday, results from the national PARCC exam of students showed that despite small increases, the majority of New Mexico students are not proficient in reading and math. Two weeks earlier, WalletHub, a personal finance website, issued the results of a high-profile report showing that New Mexico ranked 49th on math test scores, 50th on reading test scores and 50th in dropout rates.

Earlier this month it was revealed that the State is likely to be short between $300 million to $500 million to pay its operating expenses this year.   It also spent $150 million more than it had budgeted in the fiscal year just passed.

Senate Democrats tried during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions to jumpstart jobs and tax revenues by bringing forward a “Ready To Work” jobs plan that would have created 73,000 jobs. Instead, Governor Martinez and House Republicans ignored New Mexico’s jobs crisis, opposed the package of bills, and chose in the 2016 meeting of the legislature to focus on a ‘crime all the time’ agenda.

“Senate Democrats have developed a solid job creation plan that focuses our time and energy on workforce development, supporting New Mexico small businesses, improved broadband speeds and access in rural New Mexico, building public private partnerships that result in public ownership, and eliminating what doesn’t create jobs in our tax code.  It is long overdue that the Governor join us in putting this needed plan into action,” Sen. Padilla added.

 

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Senate Democrats Criticize Governor’s Failed Education Policies After New Report Shows New Mexico Schools to Be Second-Worst in Nation

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senate Democrats Criticize Governor’s Failed Education Policies After New Report Shows New Mexico Schools to Be Second-Worst in Nation

(Santa Fe, NM) – Responding to a new national report showing that New Mexico’s education system ranks as the 50th worst out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, Senate Democrats today sharply criticized Governor Susana Martinez and Public Education Department (PED) Secretary Hanna Skandera for failing to invest in proven successful strategies to improve learning.  According to the WalletHub 2016 analysis of ‘States with the Best and Worst School Systems’, New Mexico came in only slightly better than Louisiana, which came in dead last.  PED responded to the findings by saying that the state’s poor performance was due to not holding back some 3rd graders, which also drew the ire of Senate Democrats.

“This Governor and her Education Secretary are in denial when it comes to the shape our public school classrooms are in.  While other states move away from failed policies like overusing standardized tests, flunking third graders who do not pass a particular reading test, and A to F grading systems in which the data is all wrong, Martinez and Skandera doggedly continue them.  All we have seen is negative and punitive approaches from the administration, never proactive policies to invest in our children and our future,” said Senator Mimi Stewart (D-Bernalillo), a former public school teacher.

The survey looked at several results to arrive at their rankings, including student math and reading scores, average ACT and SAT test scores, student-to-teacher ratios, dropout rates and other indicators.  WalletHub is a personal finance website.  The full report can be viewed at: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-best-schools/5335/

“What New Mexico schools need is simple: smaller classes, more time on learning and less on state-mandated standardized testing, and working with rather than demonizing educational professionals.  These are the policies Senate Democrats have pushed for.  But the Governor is not listening. And this week, the results of that approach are in,” added Sen. Stewart.

PED’s spokesman Robert McEntyre said of the report, “the bottom-line: We have to end the failed practice social promotion, which allows our children to go onto the next grade even when they cannot read.”

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Letter to the Editor by Senator Soules: It’s Time to Call Back the Legislature to Fix the Budget Responsibly

Letter to the Editor: It’s Time to Call Back the Legislature to Fix the Budget Responsibly

August 3, 2016

Letter Submitted by Senator Bill Soules (D-37- Doña Ana)

In January, I voted for a state budget totaling $6.2 billion for the fiscal year of 2017.   When I explained my vote on the Senate floor, I predicted that volatile oil and gas prices, as well as unrealistic revenue forecasts by the Governor and Republican budget drafters, would force the Legislature to come back in a special session to fix an unsustainable budget.

Last week a new report on our fiscal outlook revealed that New Mexico had a $150 million funding shortfall for the fiscal year that just ended on June 30th.  That means the State spent money that it did not actually have.  And the outlook for FY 2017, which began on July 1st, appears to be even worse with an expected shortfall of between $300 and $500 million.  The New Mexico Constitution does not allow for a budget to be unbalanced.  We cannot spend money we do not have.

The trouble began when the House of Representatives Republican majority passed a budget that was not balanced.  More money was allocated to state expenses than projected revenue would support.  Senate Democrats afterwards were tasked with trimming costs in areas the House refused to address.  Democrats worked successfully to make sure that the budget protected our priorities of education and health care, law enforcement and corrections. The Governor’s budget experts assured us that there would be $200 million more available than in the prior year, and that the budget would be balanced.   These were the circumstances under which the current State spending plan for fiscal year 2017 was agreed to.

Only the Governor has the power to call the legislature back into a special session to address the budget problem. Along with many legislators of both parties, and citizens from every part of our state, I say she must do it now and without delay.  To put off our problems until the January legislative session is a disservice to the people of New Mexico who elected us, and who expect us to be responsible.

As a Democrat representing Senate District 37, I will work to ensure that the budget is not balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable families and children.  I, along with my Senate Democratic colleagues, will protect public schools and higher education from any further cuts.  We understand that our children must get a high quality education to have the opportunity to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. Innovative companies that offer attractive jobs require an excellent public education system in order to thrive.  It is essential that we deliver. We must also protect health care, mental health services, and childcare.  If we are truly committed to lifting New Mexico from the bottom of most lists relating to poverty, education and child well-being, then we must protect the essential programs that address these issues.

The Governor and the House of Representatives must come to understand that we cannot tax-cut our way to prosperity.  New Mexico is experiencing a budget crisis that rivals the crisis we experienced during the Great Recession. We can find solutions if the Senate, the House and the administration work together to find common ground. The Senate is ready to act.

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Sen. Lopez: Gov. Martinez’s Different World

Gov. Martinez’s Different World

July 30, 2016   Published in the FARMINGTON DAILY TIMES

By New Mexico State Senator M. Linda Lopez (D-11-Bernalillo)

A recent opinion piece penned by Governor Susana Martinez for the financial news network CNBC demonstrated how extremely out of touch some elected leaders can be. In fact, Martinez showed that she is living in another world. Link: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/12/new-mexicos-mission-get-out-from-under-the-dysfunction-in-washington-dc.html
The Governor’s column boasts that under her economic leadership, New Mexico has become a version of heaven on earth for business and jobs. Among other claims that do not hold up, she takes credit for diversifying the state’s economy, cutting taxes, and boosting exports. “We’ve made a lot of progress – no doubt about it,” she wrote.
‘If there are any slight problems with New Mexico’s soaring economy, they are the result of the federal government in Washington meddling in our affairs,’ she seems to say.
If only it were true. The real facts of our state’s economy unfortunately are quite grim, and no attempts to whitewash them can alter it.
During the last legislative session in February, Senate Democrats warned that the state’s budget problems were far worse than was being revealed. Some of us pointed out that there is not enough money in this year’s budget to pay the state’s bills, and that reserves will be fully depleted at the rate we are going. It now appears that New Mexico may be short between $300 million to $500 million next year.
The Governor sought to divert attention away from her failed economic policies by emphasizing crime issues exclusively. But crime is not our biggest challenge. It is the need for more jobs.
Look at our population problem, for example. New Mexico’s population is actually decreasing for the first time since the 1960s. For the past two years, we have experienced net out-migration of people. What state loses population?
There is a simple reason for people leaving: the New Mexico economy has not yet recovered from the Great Recession. There are 18,000 fewer jobs today than just before the recession of 2008 struck. A decade without any net job creation. So people – especially young people – are forced to leave to find jobs elsewhere in surrounding states. At least part of that – a substantial part – is the legacy of the last six years of Gov. Martinez’s “leadership” on the economy.
What job increases there are, as in the health care sector, are due mainly to the fact that more and more residents here are becoming eligible for Medicaid because of their impoverishment. On top of that, New Mexico’s population is aging rapidly, bringing additional health care costs. Leisure and hospitality have seen an uptick because of historic low gasoline prices, so more people are driving here to see the beauty of our state.
As further demonstration of her effective leadership, Gov. Martinez states as proof that “we’ve quadrupled exports to Mexico”. But New Mexico’s role was merely as a conduit for the exports from the transfer point of Santa Theresa. The goods themselves were produced in other states, where real manufacturing locations exist. If even a portion of the goods shipped to Mexico had been produced here, the employment data, and the reality for New Mexico would far better than it is.
By every measure, New Mexico is performing poorly in terms of jobs and economic growth. All around us, however, surrounding states are showing better gains in jobs, business activity, and gross domestic product. New Mexico’s unemployment is worse than the national rate, too.
The budget crisis that now grips our state also is a symptom of the lack of growth and economic activity under the current policies. The headlines detailing it are unavoidable. New Mexico State University recently announced a $12 million deficit next year forcing it to cut budgets, staff, benefits and at least one academic program as a result. This is what happens when a state’s economy is in a downward spiral.
It is hard to find the silver lining in all this bad economic news.
The Legislature will no doubt need to convene in a special session soon to trim the FY17 budget because of falling revenues. In January when it meets, the deeper structural problems must finally be addressed.
Far from pretending that New Mexico’s economy is sailing along wonderfully, Gov. Martinez needs to shed the rose-colored glasses she is wearing, stop pretending that ‘Washington dysfunction’ is the cause of our woes, and finally get to work with legislators to implement policies to put our state back to work.

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http://www.daily-times.com/story/opinion/columnists/2016/07/30/lopez-gov-martinezs-different-world/87672532/

 

Senator Ortiz y Pino Questions the Department of Health’s Plan to Shift Resources Away from Adolescent Detoxification Program

Contact: Isaac Padilla
Office: 505/986.4819
Isaac.Padilla@nmlegis.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senator Ortiz y Pino Questions the Department of Health’s Plan to Shift Resources Away from Adolescent Detoxification Program

(Santa Fe, NM) – Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-12-Bernalillo), chair of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, announced that public comments about the closing of Turquoise Lodge Hospital’s adolescent detoxification facility will be heard tomorrow, Friday, July 29th at 11:30 a.m. during the committee’s meeting. People interested are encouraged to attend the meeting located at The Rotunda, University of New Mexico Science and Technology Park, 801 University Blvd. SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106.

In the midst of an addiction crisis in New Mexico, the Department of Health (DOH) plans to close the state’s only detoxification facility for children 14 to 18 years of age. DOH claims it is closing the adolescent facility due to underutilization and will free space for additional adult patients. “We may need adult treatment expansion, but our children also need services. Many of our children have become addicted to opioids and heroin after being prescribed pain medication, and we have a chance to save their lives if we provide them the care they need,” said Senator Ortiz y Pino.

In announcing the closure, DOH identified other facilities that will “address the adolescent substance abuse problem” but none of those facilities offers detoxification for adolescents. “Closing the only detoxification facility for adolescents in New Mexico is irresponsible when it is desperately needed by children suffering from addiction,” added Sen. Ortiz y Pino.

The adolescent program was funded through an appropriation from the general fund approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor in 2013. “The specific appropriation was for adolescent treatment, and I don’t think the administration has freedom to shift it to another type of service,” said Sen. Ortiz y Pino.

The Turquoise Lodge program was designed to provide adolescents with detoxification and 30 days of inpatient treatment to prepare them for long term treatment at other facilities. Addiction professionals recommend that adolescents suffering from addiction participate in a detoxification program before starting other types of care to increase the probability of success for intensive outpatient treatment.

Trust for America’s Health reported that, from 2011-2013, New Mexico’s drug overdose death rate ranked second in the nation for individuals  between the ages of 12 to 24 and death rates have doubled between years of 1999-2001 and 2011-2013 for the same age range.

Links to the 2013 press release from Governor Martinez’s announcing the start of adolescent detoxification at Turquoise Lodge and the DOH’s letter to stakeholders informing them that the program will end are included below.

Martinez Turquoise Press Release

DOH Turquoise Stakeholder Letter

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