Last legislative session, New Mexico lawmakers appropriated $590,000 to Northern New Mexico College, which would serve as the fiscal sponsor for the Anna, Age Eight Institute, an organization dedicated to studying childhood trauma and abuse in the state.
However, the College’s status as fiscal sponsor may soon change.
Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, prefiled Senate Bill 35, which would allocate $6 million to New Mexico State University to oversee the Institute, before the session begins later this month.
Soules, along with Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, sponsored the original legislation that awarded the $590,000 to Northern. Three pilot sites were established in three counties, including Rio Arriba County, for the Institute to study childhood trauma in the region by conducting surveys and analyzing data.
The other two counties were Doña Ana and Socorro, which encompass the home districts of Soules and Armstrong, respectively.
Soules said requests from other counties necessitated the need for the Institute to work with a college with more resources.
“It’s extended beyond (Northern’s) capabilities to manage it effectively,” he said.
Institute Co-Director Dominic Cappello, who works out of Anna, Age Eight’s Santa Fe office, said they are receiving requests from across New Mexico to implement the program, much faster than originally anticipated.
“Half the counties in the state want this program,” he said.
Cappello said New Mexico State has offices located in nearly every county in the state, making it easier to set up operations in all the different sites, although the decision to switch fiscal sponsors has not been finalized.
“If we do, we would then have a much greater capacity to work in every county,” he said.
While Soules and Cappello said creating a statewide program was always the goal, Northern was originally chosen because of the enthusiasm for the Institute shown by Northern President Rick Bailey.
“We wouldn’t be here without Northern and certainly we wouldn’t be here without Dr. Bailey,” Cappello said.
Bailey said he agreed that New Mexico State’s larger resources would create an easier path for the Institute to reach its statewide goal. He also said State’s larger business office could make it easier for the Institute to manage the funds it was allocated.
Cappello said Northern and New Mexico State are currently in talks about a possible transition plan.
All those interviewed said Northern no longer being the fiscal sponsor would not change the services provided for citizens in Rio Arriba County. A survey will still be completed and its results shared during a forum open to the public.
“They’re not being kicked out of the program,” Soules said. “I think it has more to do with capacity.”
The House and Senate still must approve Senate Bill 35 before the $6 million can be appropriated to New Mexico State.