FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 2023
SANTA FE – Today, the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) announced that the agency’s Family Infant Toddler (FIT) program, which provides early intervention services for babies and toddlers experiencing or at risk for developmental delays or disabilities, is now ranked first in the nation in identifying and serving babies birth to 12 months old by the federal Office of Special Education Programs. ECECD also announced that it has completed a cost study for FIT early intervention services and will be increasing the rates paid to providers.
“Diagnosing developmental delays and disabilities as early as possible is critical to getting babies and toddlers the therapies and interventions they need for healthy growth and development,” said ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky. “We are thrilled that our FIT early intervention program is now the best in the nation at identifying children who could benefit from services in their first year of life. This achievement is a testament to the skill, compassion, and professionalism of New Mexico’s early intervention workforce, who we will be supporting with increased rates moving forward.”
The FIT program helps New Mexico families access high quality, no-cost early intervention services for children from birth to age three who have or may be at risk for developmental delay, and ensures the services provided are accessible, respectful, and family-centered. FIT has agreements with provider agencies in all 33 counties in New Mexico and maintains a referral process for anyone concerned about a child’s development. These provider agencies employ professionals with a range of skills and backgrounds, from broad family support experience to specialized medical knowledge. Eligibility for services is related to a percentage delay in the child’s development, or one of several diagnoses or risk criteria within the family unit.
In summer 2022, ECECD conducted a cost study among providers that determined need for increased rates to support competitive wages for early intervention professionals and the high cost of providing services in rural areas. The Department has secured $6 million in funding, covered 70/30 by federal Medicaid funds and state general fund, which will increase provider rates 16 percent for service coordination and 24 percent for evaluation services. New rates will go into effect July 1, 2023.
Carmen Armenta, parent co-chair of the New Mexico Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC), a federally mandated council that advises and assists the FIT program in implementing a statewide, coordinated and family-centered system of early intervention, is mother to two children who were born with bilateral hearing loss.
“My family was fortunate to be a part of the FIT Program for many years,” said Armenta. “Our time with New Mexico School for the Deaf’s early intervention program helped us build a strong foundation in language acquisition, literacy, deaf education, parent-advocacy, self-advocacy, other state resources, and overall confidence. I encourage any caregiver who is concerned about their young child’s development to reach out to ECECD’s FIT program to get a referral for the free early intervention services that have benefited my family so greatly.”
“What makes New Mexico unique is that all of our early intervention programs work together as a community to support infants, toddlers, and families,” said Celina Waller, ICC provider co-chair and COO of Las Cruces area FIT provider Aprendamos Early Intervention. “Our outreach efforts are paying off. We are reaching more families and bringing more awareness to the benefits of these services. I am truly inspired by being able to work alongside all of our agencies in New Mexico and to see the passion and love that our Early Intervention staff have for the work we all do. We try really hard to collaborate, create, and share ideas in order to improve the overall quality and experience for children and families. Our success is attributed to years of dedication, commitment, and a shared vision of empowering families in their own unique situations. Our continued success means that these families see better outcomes, smoother transitions, and frequently require no further intervention or special education services beyond their involvement in FIT.”
Parents seeking FIT services are encouraged to call 1-877-696-1472 to receive a free evaluation referral.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham launched the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) in 2020, making New Mexico among the first states to consolidate all early childhood programs and services under a single cabinet-level agency. Under this administration, ECECD has led the nation by expanding access to free New Mexico PreK, overseeing the largest investment in early childhood infrastructure in state history, and implementing cost-free child care for a majority of New Mexico families. Learn more about how ECECD supports children, families, and the early childhood professionals that serve our communities at nmececd.org. On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @NewMexicoECECD.