By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Quay County Commissioners heard a litany of bad news about the state of Quay County’s child well-being in a report from Quay County Health Council Coordinator Alida Brown Monday. The figures Brown cited have culminated in Quay County’s being ranked worst in the state overall for risks to child well-being. Compounding this bad news, Brown said, is New Mexico’s rating of last among the 50 states in measures of child well being by Kids Count, a national child welfare research program sponsored by the Anna E. Casey Foundation.
Among the statistics Brown cited are these:
• 25 percent of Quay County residents live below the federal poverty level, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
• 31 percent of Quay County children under age 18, nearly one in three, live in poverty
• 49 percent, almost one of every two, of Quay County’s children under age 5 live in poverty (compared with 33 percent in New Mexico and 26 percent in the U.S.).
• 11.4 percent of births are low birth weight (years 2008-2010).
• Infant deaths before 1 year: 9.2 per 1,000 in Quay County (2007-2010), compared with 5.5 per 1,000 in New mexico and 6.75 per thousand nationwide over the same period.
• Teen births to girls age 15-17: 58 per 1,000 (2008-2010, an average of 10 births per year), compared with 33 per 1,000 in New Mexico and 20 per 1,000 in the U.S.
• Little or no pre-natal care: average 46.7 percent (2005-2011), compared with 36.5 percent in New Mexico.
Quay’s teen birth rate ranked the county third in the state in that category. Quay County ranked fifth in the state in babies born pre-term with 14.5 percent of babies from 2008-2010. The county’s low birth weight rate placed it fourth in state. Its infant mortality rate from 2002 to 2011, 11.2 per 1,000 live births, ranked it second among the state’s counties. Its 2010 child abuse victim rate of 45.2 per 1,000 ranked the county second in the state.
“Shame on adults in Quay County,” Commissioner Sue Dowell said after Brown’s presentation, “We need to take better care of our kids.”
Quay’s standing qualified the county to be a target zone for a New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department initiative to bring home visitation programs to areas where child well-being risks are high and available services are low. Brown reported that a home visitation program has been launched in the county, paid for with CYFD grant funds. Lola McVeigh, Tucumcari, has been hired to direct the program.
Brown also sought the commission’s support for allowing 15 behavorial health providers to continue operating, following an audit ordered by the state’s Human Services Department that found possible fraud in billing among these providers but divulging no details as to why the charges were made. The 15 providers include Teambuilders Counseling Services, which was serving nearly 150 clients in Quay County when the audit results were announced. Brown said the situation is likely to bring an interruption in vital services and could have consequences ranging from lack of services to children in schools to increased law enforcement activity and incarceration.
Brown also reported on the Diabetes and Wellness Network’s Diabetes Self-management Education Direct Services program that serves Quay County and other surrounding areas. The program has conducted 225 patient encounters since it started in 2011 to help adults with diabetes with healthy eating, staying active, monitoring, taking medication and other diabetes needs.
“We’re very excited,” Brown said about the progress of this program, which operates from Trigg Hospital and is supported by a $15,000-per-year state grant.
The program was a response to the county’s rate of diabetes in adults nearly doubling from 9.6 percent from 2005-2007 to 18.5 percent in 2007-2009, nearly one in five adults.