Behavioral Health

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A Las Cruces behavioral health provider will take over clients of La Frontera, an Arizona firm that is shutting down its New Mexico offices.

Matt Kennicott from the state Human Services Department says many staff members from La Frontera are applying to work at La Clinica de Familia and that that will make the transition go smoothly.

"People who are seeing their current providers will continue seeing their providers even after the switching of companies is made," Kennicott said.

Jean-Rémy Duboc via CC

  LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Another Arizona-based nonprofit has confirmed it plans to cease providing Medicaid-funded mental health services in southern New Mexico.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Tucson-based La Frontera plans a staggered transition to phase out its operations in Doña Ana County and several counties in southwestern New Mexico.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

An Arizona nonprofit that came to New Mexico after the 2013 behavioral health shakeup called it quits on March 31 after less than two years. 

Turquoise Health and Wellness was the main provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment to several cities in Southeast New Mexico. Not anymore. Human Services Department spokesperson Matt Kennicott said since the company gave its 90-day closure notice, the state has been working with communities to find replacements.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

After less than two years serving southeastern New Mexico, a behavioral health provider will shutter its programs on March 31, leaving hundreds without services.

What does this mean for Roswell and its courts, which were ordering offenders into treatment there?

Judge Freddie Romero presides over the drug court for juveniles in Chaves County. It’s not what you might imagine. The judge is warm and friendly. The kids who approach the podium with their parents in tow are everyday teenagers—jeans, T shirts, the occasional piercing.

Arianna Sena

Psychiatric Meds In School—PASSED

Courtesy of Paul Ielacqua

KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting project has been investigating Albuquerque Police Department shooting deaths with an eye on behavioral health issues. This week, we’re looking at officer mental health.

Paul Ielacqua was an APD Aviation officer from 2001 to 2008 but has worked in law enforcement—at the Bernalillo County jail and Conchas Lake—since 1996. He talked to KUNM about how police handle their own mental wellness in high-stress situations.

AHealthBlog via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Another Arizona-based behavioral health provider is planning to shut down operations in New Mexico. La Frontera is one of five nonprofits that took over for local providers accused of fraud. Turquoise Health and Wellness announced earlier this year they would close their New Mexico offices on April 1st.

Substance abuse treatment is not available for everyone who needs it in New Mexico, and this shortage is at the root of some tragic altercations with police.

Mike Gomez met me in a park in Albuquerque, holding a framed photo of his son Alan. “He was a good kid, a normal kid,” he said. “He graduated high school on time. He was a Little League All-Star.”

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It’s his first month as attorney general and on Thursday, Jan. 29, Hector Balderas released the more than 300-page PCG audit that caused 15 behavioral health service providers to have their funding suspended. 

Since 2013, behavioral health providers in New Mexico have waited to see the details of accusations of Medicaid fraud leveled against them. 

  Attorney General Hector Balderas released a 339-page audit by Public Consulting Group that caused the suspension of funding for 15 behavioral health providers in New Mexico.

Read the released audit here.

Arizona firms were hired to provide behavioral health services, and local providers have said they were unable to see or refute the specific fraud allegations against them. 

Chris Blakeley via Flickr / Creative Commons license

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh reached into his shoulder bag and pulled out a four-page brochure Monday at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

The pamphlet the former Republican state lawmaker held begins with this statement in bold lettering: “The behavioral health system in Chaves County is in crisis.”

The brochure is the product of an ad hoc committee formed by a state court district judge in Roswell, Kintigh says. The pamphlet goes on to warn of the consequences when a community has too few services for the mentally ill and other vulnerable populations.

Marisa Demarco

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez secured a second term last night, beating her Democratic challenger Gary King handily. Martinez emphasized bipartisanship during her acceptance speech at the Marriott in Albuquerque, which was packed with Republicans from around the state.

As Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela introduced Gov. Martinez late Tuesday night, he focused on her heart—perhaps a nod to opponent Gary King’s maligned comment about the governor’s not being Latino enough. 

audit screen shot

A Massachusetts firm that audited 15 health organizations in New Mexico last year normally gives companies it’s scrutinizing a chance to respond before issuing official findings.

It is a common practice for auditors. Running the findings by staff gives organizations the opportunity to refute findings or address misunderstandings. It’s a way of ensuring the accuracy of an audit, among other things.

Rubén Diaz Alonso via Flickr

A state agency citing potential Medicaid fraud refused to consider documents that could have cleared a health care provider of allegations that it had overcharged the government by as much as $4.3 million, the organization’s officials said this week. 

Robin Zielinski / Las Cruces Sun-News

Two news organizations are asking the N.M. Court of Appeals to overturn a ruling allowing last year’s audit of 15 health organizations to remain secret.

Capt Piper via Flicker

Bernalillo County Commissioners voted 3-2 today to include two questions on the November ballot. One will ask whether voters support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. The other will ask whether voters support a tax increase to fund mental health services. The non-binding measures passed on a party line vote.

Commissioners voting in support of including the mental health question on the ballot said a current lack of behavioral health services in New Mexico is a growing problem for the state.

Judge Rules Health Audit Can Remain Secret

Aug 14, 2014
Yuri Yu. Samoilov via Flickr / Creative Commons License

A state agency can continue to keep secret most of an audit it used last year to suspend funding for 15 health organizations and spark criminal investigations into potential Medicaid fraud, a judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling marks the second time in nine months that Douglas R. Driggers, a district judge in Doña Ana County, has agreed with the state’s Human Services Department (HSD) and Attorney General’s Office (AG) that protecting an ongoing criminal investigation trumps the public’s right to information.

publik15 via Flickr

Dear Senators Bill O’Neill and Jerry Ortiz y Pino:

We at New Mexico In Depth were a bit confused - befuddled might be a better word - at your press release yesterday. It bears the title “Media Scrutiny Finally Gives Behavioral Health Debacle the Investigation Warranted” and begins with this line:

APD Chief Statement On Crisis Officer Contradicted

Apr 3, 2014
Still from APD video footage March 16, 2014

Contrary to initial reports from the Albuquerque Police Department, no Crisis Intervention Team officers trained to de-escalate situations involving people with behavioral health issues were called to the scene of a Sandia foothills standoff that ended in the death of a camper last month at the hands of police.  

AZ Firm Cuts Pay For NM Behavioral Health Workers

Mar 28, 2014
Agave Health logo

One of the five Arizona companies that took over operations from New Mexico behavioral health providers last year is announcing salary reductions.  The company says it had to cut pay because it was losing money.

Agave is a non-profit corporation formed in New Mexico by Southwest Behavioral Health of Arizona.  Rather than imposing layoffs, CEO and President Jeff Jorde said the firm needs to cut salaries for its 350 employees by five percent, beginning next week. 

David Niblack, Imagebase.net

New Mexico’s Human Services Department says more consumers, not fewer, are receiving services since the takeover last summer of a dozen behavioral health providers accused of fraud. HSD’s response is contrary to the results of a progress report by a federal oversight agency.

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UPDATE Feb.

KUNM Public Health New Mexico reporter Marisa Demarco breaks it down with the highlights of public health news for 2013.

The director of the state's Behavioral Health Services Division is resigning. Diana McWilliams submitted her resignation letter on Monday, Dec. 16, and her last day is tomorrow. She'll be heading back east to Philadelphia to become the chief operating officer for a nonprofit behavioral health and child welfare organization, she said. 

The Case Of New Mexico's Altered Audit

Dec 2, 2013

It's been almost six months since the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) froze Medicaid payments to mental health providers in the state due to a "credible allegation of fraud."

New Mexico Leads Nation In Per Capita Mental Illness

Oct 30, 2013

A new federal report ranks New Mexico as the state with the highest percentage of citizens with mental illness. But the 416-page survey also reveals states in the Southwest are above average in many areas like access to mental health services.

The purpose of the Behavioral Health 2012 report is to look at where states stand in relation to national averages. The hope is for policy makers to examine areas of the mental health system that need help.

In June, New Mexico’s Behavioral Health care system was thrown into chaos — the state abruptly froze Medicaid payments to more than a dozen mental health providers in the state after an audit allegedly found widespread

This summer, the State of New Mexico froze Medicaid payments to mental health providers because of fraud allegations.

Bryant Furlow / New Mexico In Depth

At the end of June, 15 New Mexico behavioral health agencies had their Medicaid funding frozen by the state's Human Services Department due to “credible allegations of fraud.”

The agencies provide services to approximately 30,000 patients, many who seek help for mental health issues ranging from substance abuse treatment to schizophrenia.

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