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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Funding woes endanger disabled adults

Posted

Tresco Inc. has been working with the developmentally disabled in and around Las Cruces for more than 54 years.

Tresco’s Community Support Services, a vital part of its mission, will end June 30, 2022. Community Support Services is the segment of Tresco’s organization that works with severely intellectual and developmentally disabled adults.

Citing inadequate funding from the state, Tresco CEO/President Chris Boston announced March 2 his organization will end its contract to perform those services.

Boston said, over the past decade, Tresco has had to “backfill the lack of funding with proceeds from our other business lines” to the tune of $12.2 million, but the organization can no longer sustain that.

He said Tresco is currently in good shape fiscally, but they are “making this move to continue being a financially healthy organization.”

While Tresco was only required to give 30 days’ notice for terminating the contract, they gave 120 days’ to give as much time for transition as possible “to ensure an orderly and safe transition for participants of the program,” Boston said in a letter to the state.

“Today we serve 63 individuals,” Boston said of the adults in Community Support Services. To properly serve and support those individuals, he added, Tresco employs 106 people. That almost 2-to-1 ratio indicates the severity of the special needs of many of the individuals being served. A lot of the adults require 24/7 services, Boston said.

What will happen to the 63 adults? Boston hopes the advance notice will give the state time to find a way to keep things as seamless as possible for them.

Will those 106 employees lose their jobs? Boston hopes whoever picks up the new contract will recognize the value those workers brought and, ideally, pair them with the same adults they’d previously been serving, preserving important relationships.

If some of them indeed lose their jobs, Boston said he hopes, in some cases, they could find new positions within the Tresco organization. While the Community Support Services is a large part of what Tresco has done over the years, it also implements two other community programs: Children’s Services and Tresco Works.

Children’s Services comprises two elements: the early intervention program known as Tresco Tots, and a Day One program that works with children from birth to age 5, typically providing services in the child’s own home. The Tresco Works program pairs less severely disabled adults with local businesses, organizations and government entities to provide work, such as janitorial services.

I’ve spoken with several of those groups, all of whom say the work the individuals from Tresco Works provides is outstanding.

Tresco currently serves Doña Ana County, Sierra County and Socorro County. Tresco was founded in 1968 as the Open Door Center in Las Cruces, and became Tresco (short for “three counties,” with the three in Spanish) when the organization began serving all three counties.

There was a bill in this year’s New Mexico Legislative session, House Bill 155, that could have made a big difference for the Community Support Services, locally and around the state. It would have set aside about $5 million in state funds, which then would have qualified for about $20 million in federal funds. The bill passed through the House’s Health and Human Services committee on a bipartisan 9-0 vote, but never made it to the floor. I’ve heard conflicting reasons why that happened.

 That $25 million would have kept Tresco’s program going a while longer, Boston said, but the question is sustainability. While Tresco has been doing its program for more than 50 years, they are not the only group in New Mexico providing the services. And all of the other operations have faced the same funding shortage.

In the meantime, here in Las Cruces, there are 63 people we should all be very concerned about.

Richard Coltharp