Just two years after expanding to a state-of-the-art facility in the City of Vision, Life ROOTS, a local non-profit that specializes in helping community members who have children and adult children with disabilities, may be running out of room.
LifeROOTS CEO Kathleen Cates said it’s a good thing that the over-60-year-old nonprofit, which she referred to as one of the community’s best-kept secrets, has to expand.
“When I came into LifeROOTS, the economy was crashing and nonprofits were closing their doors everywhere,” she said. “Now, with the governor keeping her promise to take the wait time for people with disabilities down to six years from 13, we could be packed sooner than we think.”
According to Cates, LifeROOTS has been in Rio Rancho for 40 years and has three main divisions: children’s therapy, an adult-services program and business-contact services to help individuals with disabilities find work.
“We serve the children in the parents’ homes and the daycares, so there is very little footprint of our children’s program locally,” she said.
The adult programs, called Day Programs, are offered to adults with disabilities Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., she said.
“Their therapist can meet them here so they can go through their therapy, which we don’t get paid for, but we have a space for them here,” Cates said. “We also take them out into the community every day so they interact with the world.”
The function of LifeROOTS, she said, is so the parents of adults with disabilities can have respite or continue to work a full-time job while someone cares for their son or daughter.
Cates said LifeROOTS aids 340 adults across four counties every month.
In Rio Rancho, 45 adults use LifeROOTS’ programs on any given day, she said.
The way the system works, Cates said, is a child is diagnosed with a developmental disability or an intellectual disability, which can be processed through the state’s waiver program.
“What has been happening in the last eight years through the last administration is that there have been no allocations,” she said. “So people keep getting on the waitlist but hardly anybody is allocated.”
Cates said at one point the wait went from five years to 13.
“That means you have to be on the waitlist for 13 years before you can get services,” she said.
For example, a person moved to New Mexico when at age 18 wouldn’t receive services until her or she was over 30.
Cates said after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took office, LifeROOTS got 330 applications, the most allocations the state has had in over nine years.
“If she is going to allocate everyone on the list in six years, that number will only grow,” Cates said. “So we have to get ready for the tidal wave of people who are going to need services.”
Cates said 270 people in Sandoval County are on the waitlist to get into LifeROOTS.
“One way we want to prepare is to increase employment opportunities,” she said.
Cates said LifeROOTS is looking into purchasing land across the street from its current facility at 1909 29th St. in Rio Rancho. The plan is to install a portable building that can be secured so adults working for LifeROOTS can lock up their equipment and to create additional parking for clients.
“There are multiple ways of providing services. I am trying to think outside of the box and not quantify our needs with a square-footage number, but expanding is in the cards,” she said.
When it comes to keeping the lights on, Cates said LifeROOTS’ has an operational budget of $8.5 million, $5 million of which comes through contracts.
Cates said the nonprofit does two fundraisers a year, one of which will be a golf tournament held at Paradise Hills Golf Course in September.
“We need about $150,000 to move forward on the first phase of expanding to the lot across the street,” she said. “Will I need another phase in a couple of years? Yeah, but I can get a used portable, grade the land, fence and cut the curb for $150,000.”
Cates said this is an important step for LifeROOTS since it is one of only two places adults with disabilities can come to socialize, learn working skills and receive therapy.
For more information on Life ROOTS, go to centerfornonprofitexcellence.org/nonprofit-directory/nonprofit/1204.