by DeJanay Booth, Carlsbad Current-Argus
January 17, 2017

While the state of New Mexico may be improving in lowering the rate of teen pregnancy, Eddy County still has room for improvement, according to a recent report.

Eddy County has a teen birth rate of nearly 66 percent, which is higher than the 34.2 percent state average, according to the 2016 New Mexico KIDS COUNT data book.

The report stated that 38 per 1,000 teens in New Mexico between the ages of 15-19 became pregnant in 2014, higher than the United States average of 24 per 1,000. However, teen pregnancy in New Mexico decreased from 61 per 1,000 in 2008 to 38 per 1,000.

And while teen pregnancy might be an indicator of how much work Eddy County still has to do, other areas of child well being remain a stark indicator of just where New Mexico stands in the nation overall.

Children in poverty remains an issue for the state.

According to the report, New Mexico is the second worst state in the nation when it comes to children living in poverty. The statistics are highest among Native Americans and Hispanics, with a about 22,000 children statewide below the national poverty line — an 18 percent increase from 2008.

Nineteen percent of children in Eddy County live in poverty, which is lower than the state and national average.

“We’re seeing more children living in high-poverty areas and living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment,” Amber Wallin, KIDS COUNT director, said. “This shouldn’t be surprising, given the state’s stalled economy, but it’s troubling because it can impact other areas of child well-being where we’re doing better.”

It’s not all bad news.

“The uninsured rate in our state has dropped nearly 50 percent since 2011, meaning more New Mexicans than ever before have health care coverage under Governor Martinez,” said Kyler Nerison, spokesman for the New Mexico Human Services Department, said in an emailed statement. “We continue to work to reform Medicaid to make it more patient-centered as we grow the health care safety net to help more people get the care they need.”

Four percent of New Mexican children did not have insurance in 2015 — lower than the 5 percent national average — compared to 14 percent in 2008.

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