Bill to Fix Broken Boarding-Home System, Protect Mentally Ill Headed to Governor’s Desk

HB 85 Would Allow DOH to Oversee Homes, Help Local Communities Keep People Safe

With just hours left in the 2017 Legislative Session, the New Mexico Senate on Saturday unanimously passed HB 85, a bill to fix the state’s broken boarding-home system. After subsequently receiving concurrence from the House of Representatives, HB 85 is now headed to Gov. Susana Martinez for her consideration.


Rep. Debbie Armstrong, who sponsored HB 85, Investigation of Board & Care Homes, and who worked to address this issue during her time as the Secretary of Aging and Long Term Services, designed the bill to provide the maximum protection for boarding home residents with the least possible fiscal impact.


“We all know the fiscal constraints we’re under,” Armstrong said, “and I’m glad that my colleagues understand that lives are at stake, and that we need this low-cost solution for this heartbreaking problem. The Legislature sent a message today that the mentally ill residents of these group homes must be safe and treated with dignity and respect.”


HB 85 is a direct response to high-profile issues with boarding homes around the state, which have come under fire after intensified media scrutiny and the tragic deaths of mentally ill residents living in these homes.


Specifically, HB 85 calls on the Department of Health to establish minimal licensure requirements for boarding homes. The DOH would also create a set of model regulations for boarding homes that local communities could adopt in order to help them oversee the homes in their area.


“The goal is to begin to raise the standards for these homes,” Armstrong said. “This bill creates a common-sense remedy that will save lives. I hope the governor will join the Legislature is saying ‘enough is enough’ and standing up for some of our most vulnerable citizens.”


Armstrong’s bill further allows the Attorney General and the Aging & Long Term Services ombudsman to investigate complaints against boarding homes.


In the past, New Mexico law allowed the Department of Health to regulate boarding homes. However, changes in the law have left boarding homes, which house mentally ill patients who do not require assistance with daily tasks such as dressing and bathing, in limbo with no agency or department overseeing or regulating these homes.


HB 85 will now go to the governor for her consideration. She has 20 days after the end of the session to take action on the bill by either signing or vetoing the bill. If she takes no action in those 20 days, the bill is pocket vetoed.



About Rep. Armstrong: Debbie, Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, is a long-time health care advocate serving her second term in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Having started her career as a physical therapist, she has worked extensively as a health care administrator, working 10 years with Presbyterian Medical Services in Santa Fe. Prior to serving as Secretary of New Mexico’s Aging and Long-Terms Services Department, she oversaw the department’s Consumer and Elder Rights Division. Debbie is the mother of three adult children. She lives in Albuquerque’s North Valley.  Follow her on Twitter @NMRepArmstrong and on Facebook, and sign up for email and text updates.

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