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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MDT


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is seeing soaring numbers of deadly overdoses from fentanyl and methamphetamine. Legislative analysts said in a report released Thursday that preliminary figures show fentanyl-related deaths increased by 129% between 2019 and 2020. That percentage is expected to climb even higher as the data for last year is still coming in. The trend mirrors what's happening nationally. The report says the pandemic contributed to the surge in overdoses by disrupting outreach to treatment and increased social isolation. It also highlighted the anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and burnout that people have been experiencing since the pandemic began.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico schools have started spending the $1 billion in pandemic relief funding that was promised to them this year. Because of the extra federal funding, all children in many rural schools now have tablets or to laptops to use at their homes. School districts also spent the money to buy masks, upgrade air filters and to provide other COVID-19 protections. Data from The Associated Press show that the spending of federal money in New Mexico is expected to range from $100 to $15,000 per student depending on the school district. More funding goes to areas with higher concentrations of low-income students. 


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A Las Cruces psychiatrist could face years in prison after pleading no contest to charges accusing him of sexually assaulting female patients. A plea agreement recommends seven years in prison for Dr. Mark Beale. He pleaded no contest to a total of 16 counts of felony criminal sexual penetration, misdemeanor criminal sexual contact and petty misdemeanor battery. Beale said in court Tuesday that he didn't want to give up the opportunity to defend himself, prompting the judge initially to say he'd reject the plea. But the judge then accepted it when Beale's lawyer asked him to reconsider. Beale was arrested in 2019.


Some immigrant teens say they've waited weeks or months in massive facilities and don't know when they'll be released to relatives in the United States. Most children were at these emergency intake sites for less than three weeks in mid-July, but more than 700 kids had been there longer. Advocates question why the Biden administration continues to rely these sites, calling them unfit for young children. They want officials to look at a longer-term fix. The administration raced to erect the sites five months ago to house a record number of immigrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border alone. But even now, with the summer heat, the crunch on the border shows no sign of abating.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to conserve more of the state's land and water. She says doing so will boost other state efforts to mitigate climate change effects. The Democratic governor signed an executive order Wednesday creating a committee that will draft a plan aimed at conserving 30% of New Mexico's land and water by 2030. The Biden administration in May set the ambitious goal of conserving a third of the entire U.S. To make progress, experts have said westerns states must play a key role in the effort. California and Nevada have taken similar action. Some critics worry that it will amount to a land grab by the government.


PHOENIX (AP) — The Supreme Court has ordered the reinstatement of the "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy, saying the Biden administration likely violated federal law by trying to end the Trump-era program that forces people to wait in Mexico while seeking asylum in the U.S. The decision raised questions about what comes next for the future of the policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. U.S. immigration experts note that no matter what happens over the long term, the Biden administration has a lot of discretion on how broadly it wants to reimplement the "Remain in Mexico" policy. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Top health officials are warning that New Mexico is about a week away from rationing health care as COVID-19 infections continue to climb. State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during a briefing Wednesday that the state is tracking along with its worst-case projections when it comes to spread and hospitalizations. He said the biggest constraint right now is the shortage of health care workers. State officials suggested New Mexico would have to increase the percentage of vaccinated adults by as much as 18% to avert the coming hospital crisis. So far, about two-thirds of New Mexicans over 18 are fully vaccinated.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State agencies in New Mexico already have spent billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief grants as they try to shore up household income, childhood nutrition, public education and internet service. A briefing by the budget and accountability office of the state Legislature shows the state has spent more than half of its $10.1 billion share through 130 grants. Most of the money has gone to mandatory programs such as unemployment insurance and Medicaid. Legislative analysts also noted in Wednesday's briefing that the pressure to spend down the grants may lead to uncompetitive contracting through emergency exemptions.