May 2021 enchantmet

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Overcoming Barriers The Anna, Age Eight Institute helps find resources for those in need By Nicole E. Drake In July 2020, New Mexico State University welcomed the Anna, Age Eight Institute— an organization that ensures New Mexico families have what they need to prevent trauma and succeed in future endeavors. Since then, the organization—which uses data-driven processes to build the capacity of local county governments to strengthen health, safety and resilience— has conducted several surveys about available resources in the state. “The initiative is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in every community through a process of turning science into real-world solutions,” says Katherine Ortega Courtney, Anna, Age Eight Institute co-director. The Anna, Age Eight Institute is housed within NMSU’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, which allows the institute to work with NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service. In 2020 and 2021, the Anna, Age Eight Institute conducted several surveys throughout New Mexico. The institute partnered with the NMSU Center for Community Analysis to distribute and analyze the surveys. The surveys collected information evaluating the need for and barriers to vital services from Dona Ana, Otero, Socorro and Rio Arriba counties. The 10 vital services for striving and surviving are medical care, behavioral health care, food security programs, housing security programs, transportation to vital services, parent supports— including resources for home-visiting and child care—early childhood education, fully resourced community schools with medical and behavioral health centers, youth mentors and job training. “The reports signify a commitment on the part of initiative participants, 8

M AY 2021

The Anna, Age Eight Institute—housed at New Mexico State University—works to ensure New Mexico families have what they need to prevent trauma and be successful. Co-directors Katherine Ortega Courtney, left, and Dominic Cappello lead the institute. COURTESY PHOTO

including nine counties in New Mexico, to use a data-driven and collaborative process to ensure that vital services meet the needs of 100% of county residents,” Katherine says. “This result-focused strategy is a long-term commitment to rural and urban New Mexicans, creating a new standard of care and quality of life.” The survey found that throughout the counties surveyed, there are consistent barriers for residents trying to access vital services. This includes difficulty to find affordable housing in all counties. Barriers to services dedicated to health and survival, such as medical services, vary in each county. Each report described the barriers to the vital services residents need to ensure the safety of households, run effective schools, and prevent adverse childhood experiences and trauma. “Specific barriers to these services vary by county, and local analysis is vital,” Katherine says. To combat these challenges, the information collected will guide the work done by the 100% New Mexico Initiative from each county. Ten teams—each focused on one vital service—will analyze the data provided and develop plans to remove the

The Anna, Age Eight Institute partnered with NMSU’s Center for Community Analysis and Erica Surova, senior program manager, to distribute and analyze surveys about available resources in the state. NMSU PHOTO

barriers. This will be done using continuous quality improvement, a process that focuses on resolving the needs of a community. Each team will be focused on health, racial equity and health disparities. “A challenge for every state is that there is no local entity with the mission and funding to identify and prevent barriers to vital services,” Katherine says. “The 100% New Mexico Initiative is a first-of-its-kind strategy, empowering city and county governments to take a leadership role in replacing barriers with opportunities for access.” Visit https://annaageeight.nmsu.edu for more information about the Anna, Age Eight Institute. enchantment.coop