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Health providers, supporters fighting back

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Staff and Wire

A coalition of New Mexico behavioral health providers and their supporters have formed a group after state officials froze payments to some nonprofits amid a scathing audit.

The group announced Wednesday the formation of the “New Mexicans Fighting to Save Behavioral Health” to counter what they say are state efforts to close some New Mexico providers “in favor of out-of-state companies.”

The New Mexico Human Services Department in June froze payments to 15 nonprofits that provide mental health and substance abuse services after an audit found what the agency said was a high rate of billing problems and possible mismanagement.

At least five of the 15 nonprofits are currently being transitioned to management by Arizona companies.

The group says the move will hurt the economy in rural New Mexico.

“The State Human Services Division has mandated the closure of fourteen agencies, alleging mismanagement,” the new group states in its release. “The agencies represent nearly 90 percent of the state’s entire behavioral health services system. The system provides services to individuals and families suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. Many in this vulnerable population are Hispanics and Native Americans.”

The group states that the shutdown could potentially affect 30,000 clients and their families throughout New Mexico, jeopardizing the jobs of thousands of caregivers.

“None of the targeted agencies has received results of the audits conducted by HSD alleging fraud, effectively denying them due process,” the group said in its release. “Multiple requests to review these results have been denied.
The state has turned over the audit results to the state Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Gary King argues that disclosing the audit at this time could jeopardize the investigation.

“NMHSD is effectively abandoning New Mexico’s behavioral health system in favor of out-of-state companies, even though many of the New Mexico providers have long-standing relationships with the communities they serve,” the group’s news release states. “Closure could have significant economic impact on many of the state’s rural towns and villages.”