Patty Jennings is best known for her longtime advocacy on the disability and health issues that she worked on with her husband, state Senator Timothy Jennings. She was an advocate for early childhood programs, special education, and other services for children with special needs and their families. She also advocated on behalf of kids in foster care and other vulnerable children, and created – and then led for many years – the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool, which provides health coverage for people who cannot otherwise obtain it. Patty lost her long struggle with cancer in 2009.
Polly Arango believed families should have the option of caring for their special-needs children at home — an idea that met with great resistance at the time. Polly co-founded Family Voices, a national organization that advocates for improved access and quality of health care. She also co-founded Parents Reaching Out, a network of programs for families. She was killed in an accident in 2010.
Together, Patty and Polly worked with the state Legislature – in particular, Patty’s husband, Tim – to create the Medically Fragile Children’s Program and to expand coverage and services for children in various Medicaid Waiver programs.
The Patty Jennings and Polly Arango Citizen Advocacy Award honors any New Mexico citizen not in elected or public life with a proven record of exceptional advocacy, community, and civic engagement, who demonstrates outstanding civic and charitable responsibility and whose actions and leadership encourage others to take on citizen advocacy on a community, national and/or international level.