Only one state has a data-driven, post-pandemic plan to ensure 100% of residents’ health and safety.

New Mexico is doing something in the post-pandemic USA no other state is. What and why is that?

All the leaders of fifty states knew, going into the pandemic, that there were families lacking access to the vital services for survival that included medical care, behavioral health care, food security, housing security and transport to vital services. Historical disparities are not new nor newsworthy in the 24/7 news stream of the US. What is new is that New Mexicans said, “All families can thrive if we end barriers to vital services. We must commit to that.”

New Mexico has the nation’s first (and only) strategic plan, in full implementation, to provide each county with the vision, resources, mobilizing process and technical assistance to build local systems of care where 100% of residents have access to the ten vital services for surviving and thriving. What does that mean in our fragile, unpredictable post-pandemic world, you might be asking? Allow me to illustrate how one state government is investing in its people’s stability and security, after a nightmare year, in five photos with captions.

SURVIVING: County leaders survey families to identify barriers the five vital services for surviving and innovates to remove them. This means 100% of residents can access medical/dental care, behavioral health care, food security programs, housing security programs and transportation to vital services.
THRIVING: County leaders survey families to identify barriers the five vital services for thriving and innovates to remove them. This means 100% of residents can access parent supports, early childhood learning programs, fully resourced community schools with health centers, youth mentor programs and job training programs (along with supporting local job creation programs).
NETWORKING: County leaders assess the magnitude of the digital divide across all communities within their borders. A process is put in place to ensure all residents have access to web-based services, supports and information including job training and placement.
EMPOWERING: Each county designs and builds a 100% Family Center in their main population center. This first-of-its-kind center provides all family members with a one-stop shop, with access to ten vital services for surviving and thriving. Transport to and from the center, across the county, can be provided.
PRIORITIZING: County leaders collaborate with all the school communities within their borders to transform 100% of under-resourced schools into fully resourced community schools with school-based medical, dental and mental health care. Resources also fund navigators to connect students and parents to vital services and increase tutoring and mentoring with a focus on emotional health, academic achievement and job readiness.

After enduring lockdown for 14 grueling and disorienting months, our diverse states emerge to what might be called a new mask-free reality (for most of us). This coincides with new national leadership that sounds reasonable as opposed to pathological. Trillions of tax dollars appear to be available for what might be called pandemic recovery. Some cash goes directly to adults while other funds head to state governments to fund all sorts of activities. As for how this creates a sustainable local system of care and safety, the jury is out. As a believer in data-driven work, the proof will be in the evaluation reports years from now.

This article is not about what the feds will or won’t do. While I like to be optimistic, I have lived long enough to know one thing. Real change that is measurable and meaningful to our most vulnerable people almost always happens on the local level. I would love to think that to prepare for the next and possibly more deadly pandemic, a medicare-for-all-system is in the works in Congress. If not that, I would like to learn that each state government is designing their own statewide medicare-for-all system, creating a seamless system of health promotion, illness prevention and treatment via the robust funding of a network of hospitals, community health centers and school-based clinics.

But instead of what I would love and like and hope for, I am relying on what is actually happening in my home state of New Mexico. And what is happening across our state is so powerful, groundbreaking and doable, that I can barely contain my enthusiasm, joy and pride. In nine counties we have leaders working to ensure that 100% of residents — children, students, parents, caregiving grandparents (everyone, everywhere) — have access to the ten vital services for surviving and thriving. This is radically simple on some level. There are ten services shown to ensure health, safety, education and job readiness. Meeting the needs of 100% of residents is the goal. The math goes like this: 10@100% which means ten services are accessible to 100% of county residents.

The initiative guiding this work, county by county, is called 100% New Mexico and we we have been with this capacity-building project for two years. Our surveys identified barriers to vital services like medical care before lockdown. Our initiative participants navigate the real world where they don’t need to be reminded that families struggle to get to vital services in both rural and urban New Mexico. Our local change agents understand that not everyone is comfortably middle or upper class with a job that can be done via zoom when a public health crisis hits.

As for what’s so groundbreaking about ensuring ten vital services, we say that ask around online and you will discover this little fact: New Mexico is taking the lead in ensuring services in post-pandemic America. It is a huge statewide experiment unfolding as you read this. The 100% New Mexico initiative is data-driven, locally-facilitated, and tech-infused, being offered through the state’s higher education system in all counties. The process is designed to empower leaders from city government, county government and all family-serving public sector entities to align forces and ensure access to vital services. 9 out of 33 counties have signed on, with more asking how to join the initiative.

Our 100% New Mexico initiative is working because of a shared vision. The mantra is: 100% can thrive. I encourage you to block out the mind-numbing and less-than fact-checked news soundbites. Rely on local data to tell you the verified health status of your neighbors across town. Know that we have serious capacity-building to do in most of our 3000+ counties across the nation. If the feds seek to offer meaningful help for sustainable solutions, by all means celebrate. Meanwhile, the most groundbreaking public health and education initiative you’ve most likely never heard of is happening in New Mexico. Come join the innovation.

Visualize! Mobilize! Thrive!

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. All cartoon characters are pure fiction and any resemblance to real humans or three-headed hydras is total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? Push to front of reading list: 100% Community: Ensuring 10 vital services for surviving and thriving and Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras: Confronting Apathy, Envy and Fear on the road to saving humans and the future. Better yet, let‘s meet at the EYE bookcafe to share a latte and some bold ideas.

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.