Feds To Review Behavioral Health Care Access In New Mexico – Associated Press
The investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to review the level of access that New Mexicans have to behavioral health services through the Medicaid program.
Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation made the request earlier this year.
The inquiry will be one of a handful being conducted by the agency's inspector general.
New Mexico's behavioral health system was upended in 2013 when Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration froze payments to 15 nonprofits that provided services to the state's most needy residents after an audit raised questions about fraud and abuse.
Some providers were forced to close. Others were replaced by out-of-state companies.
An investigation by the state attorney general's office eventually found only regulatory violations and no patterns of fraud among the nonprofits.
State Wildlife Officials Review Feds' Plan For Wolf Recovery – Associated Press
State wildlife officials are reviewing the federal government's plan for recovering endangered wolves that once roamed parts of New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico.
A draft was recently released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the agency works to meet a court-ordered deadline to have the plan completed by the end of November.
In Arizona, the state Game and Fish Department says the plan appears to address concerns raised in a 2015 lawsuit that was filed by the state.
Arizona officials and others have argued that the federal government is required by the federal Endangered Species Act to have an updated plan. The current plan was published in 1982.
Since conservation of the Mexican gray wolf began in the 1980s, the Arizona agency has spent more than $7 million on recovery efforts.
New Mexico Wildfire Near Albuquerque Smaller Than Estimated – Associated Press
A wildfire continues to burn on a mountain range overlooking Albuquerque but officials say it is significantly smaller than initially estimated.
Cibola National Forest spokeswoman Donna Nemeth says officials initially thought the fire in the Sandia Crest area had grown to 20 acres (8 hectares) but that its size was estimated Friday at 5 acres (2 hectares).
Nemeth says the fire is burning numerous dead standing trees and other fuel. Its smoke can be seen from Albuquerque and the surrounding area.
The fire was first reported Thursday and it is burning within a mile of communications towers. Nemeth says crews are clearing vegetation to help protect that infrastructure.
No residential evacuations have been initiated but a popular viewing spot, a trail and a road have been closed.
New Mexico Utility To Release Documents In Rate Case – Associated Press
New Mexico's largest electric utility has been told to publicly release documents that were sealed as it pursues approval from state regulators for a rate increase.
Two hearing officers for the Public Regulation Commission ruled this week that the utility failed to show the information's secrecy was protected by state or federal law, and it didn't prove that any trade secrets would be revealed if the documents were made public.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Public Service Co. of New Mexico is asking the hearing officers to reconsider the decision.
The renewable energy advocacy group New Energy Economy, a long-standing critic of the utility, had asked earlier this year that a confidentiality designation be lifted from documents that relate to two coal-fired power plants and negotiations over future coal supplies.
The Latest: Senate Hearing Delves Into Indian-Art Fraud – Associated Press
Former U.S. Senator and jewelry maker Ben Knighthorse-Campbell has dropped in on a Senate hearing in New Mexico about ways to prevent counterfeit Indian arts and crafts.
Knighthorse-Campbell said Friday that enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act has grown more complex since the 1990s.
He says disputes about who qualifies as an Indian artist can complicate law enforcement efforts. Collaborative artwork involving Native American and non-Indian artists also present challenges.
Efforts to prevent the sale of counterfeit tribal art and jewelry will be the focus of testimony as two U.S. senators hold a field hearing in New Mexico about protecting legitimate American Indian artists and markets from fraudulent goods.
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich plan to gather suggestions Friday from top federal officials responsible for enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.
The act makes it a crime to falsely market and sell art as Native American-made when it is not. Calls to modernize enforcement provisions have been spurred by revelations about the spread of fake Indian art.
Federal prosecutors in New Mexico are preparing for trial in an ambitious investigation that traced falsified Native American art from the Philippines to galleries across the United States.
Suit Claims New Mexico Inmates Don't Have Enough Space – Associated Press
New Mexico prisoner representatives have filed a lawsuit claiming four state prisons are in violation of a prisoner personal space deal.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the representatives filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court, claiming the four prisons are in violation of the Duran Consent Decree, which guarantees each inmate at least 60 square feet (5.6 square meters) of "living and sleeping space."
The suit claims the prisons have reduced inmate space by adding extra bunks to single cells and have crowded prisoners into small dormitories. It also claims the prisons are housing prisoners in spaces not intended for living.
Gov. Susana Martinez is the suit's lead defendant.
Corrections Department spokesman S.U. Mahesh says the claims are either wrong or have been addressed.
Grand Canyon National Park: Water Pipeline Needs Replacement – Associated Press
Grand Canyon National Park officials are planning to replace much of the decades-old, problem-plagued pipeline that crosses the canyon to supply water to hotels, campgrounds and other facilities on the popular South Rim.
Crews regularly have to descend into the canyon by trail or helicopter to fix costly breaks to the 6-inch aluminum pipe from rockslides. The park periodically imposes water conservation measures and has had to temporarily restrict visitor services until repairs are complete.
The National Park Service is seeking public comment on the project before reviewing its possible impact on the environment. Officials are considering replacing the entire 12.5-mile (20.12 -kilometer) pipeline serving the South Rim or just replacing about one-third of it.
The current pipeline was constructed in the 1960s and Olson says it has already outlasted its designed 40 years of use.
Mississippi Man Pleads Guilty To Attempted Murder In Kansas – Associated Press
A man suspected of killing and wounding people in Mississippi, New Mexico and Kansas in February has pleaded guilty to charges arising from the Kansas case.
Alex Bridges Deaton, of Philadelphia, Mississippi, pleaded guilty Friday to attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery stemming from the shooting of a convenience store clerk in Pratt in March. Two other charges were dropped. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 16.
Deaton is charged in Rankin County, Mississippi, with first-degree murder, auto theft, and drive-by shooting. He's accused of strangling his girlfriend, stealing her car, and shooting a jogger in February.
He's also suspected in the killing of a woman cleaning a church in Neshoba County, Mississippi.
He also allegedly carjacked a couple in New Mexico before fleeing to Kansas and shooting the clerk.
Homes Remain Evacuated During Fire Near Colorado Ski Resort – Associated Press
Hundreds of people spent another night away from their homes as firefighters kept a close eye on a wildfire near Colorado's Breckenridge Ski Resort and the nearby historic town.
The fire reported Wednesday has scorched less than a quarter of a square mile (.65 sq. kilometers), but forced the evacuation of nearly 500 homes, many of which are pricey ski properties. No homes have burned.
Crews spent Thursday dropping slurry from the air and building containment lines on the ground about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of the resort to prevent the fire from reaching a large subdivision. The base of the resort and the town of Breckenridge, which include hotels, restaurants and businesses, were not evacuated.
The fire is among several burning in Colorado and elsewhere around the West, including in Nevada, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming.
Coal Found Buried At Gallup Skate Park Site Delays Progress – Associated Press
The unearthing of a thick layer of coal at the site of Gallup's soon-to-be skate park has put a hold on construction.
The Gallup Independent reports officials had no idea there was coal and other materials buried when they started construction on the skate park last summer.
Public Works Director Stan Henderson says the coal and other materials found are from "way back yonder" when coal used to be loaded and unloaded in the area.
Creosote, a carcinogen and tar-like substance used to seal wood in railroad ties, and diesel were also found at the site.
Henderson says the cost to remove the hazardous material could be more than $100,000.
He says the goal is still to have the park completed by Labor Day.