Exercising the right to peacefully assemble, this afternoon hundreds of people from across New Mexico stood shoulder to shoulder in a Legislative Finance Committee meeting, urging lawmakers and the Cabinet Secretary of the Human Services Department to reinstate funding for Behavioral Health Services across the state.
This past winter fifteen Behavioral Health Providers that serve more than thirty thousand residents of New Mexico and make up eighty five percent of the Behavioral Health infrastructure for the state, were audited by a Massachusetts firm. Shannon Freedle is the Chief Executive Officer of Team Builders Counseling Services, one of the agencies placed under the microscope.
"All fifteen agencies failed and it seems that it was set up for us to fail," Freedle says. "Medicaid funds along with other funds managed by OptumHealth New Mexico were put on hold, and we are fast approaching the end of our fourth week without payment."
All fifteen of the agencies have filed Good Cause Requests with the Human Services Department for release of the payment holds. Criteria set by the federal government for a request to be taken seriously require that the contractors cater to medically underserved areas with high need, and that they are sole providers of essential services. Since the community mental health agency Team Builders serves twenty three mostly rural counties as well as fifteen Native American communities around the state, Freedle says this situation demands an urgent response.
"We understand that the Human Services Department has a responsibility to protect the Medicaid benefit," he says, "but we believe there is also a responsibility to protect the citizens of the state of New Mexico, and in this instance, the consumers of behavioral health care."
The State maintains it is following federal guidelines in the protection of medicaid recipients. The Human Services Department has indicated that they have five outside companies from Arizona ready to step in and assume care for the thirty thousand patients using services from providers whose payments have been put on hold. But almost a month into the suspension of funds, Freedle has yet to see who would be taking over his caseload, should his agencies provisional care be terminated.