NM Attorney General Exonerates 10 Behavioral Health Providers

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Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 9.26.40 AMThe New Mexico Attorney General exonerated 10 health providers of fraud charges Monday, a significant reversal for Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, which accused 15 organizations of wrongdoing more than two years ago and forced many out of business.

“While we did find some regulatory violations, there did not appear to be a pattern of fraud for any of the ten completed investigations,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a two-page letter released this morning.

Balderas’ announcement means 13 of the 15 organizations accused of fraud have been cleared of wrongdoing.

The state’s decision to shut off government dollars to the organizations because of the fraud accusations disrupted care to tens of thousands of vulnerable New Mexicans struggling with mental illness or drug addiction. It also caused staff layoffs and at least one pharmacy’s temporary shutdown.

The disruptions from 2013 have continued to ripple through the affected populations. New Mexico cities and regions recently have had to scramble to find care for those affected. Two of five Arizona organizations the Martinez administration brought in to replace the New Mexico operations have departed the state, saying the ventures were  too financially difficult.

New Mexico, meanwhile, faces possible payouts to the affected New Mexico providers. Several organizations have accused the Martinez administration in court of improperly withholding government money and harming their business operations, among other things.

The 10  providers cleared of wrongdoing by Balderas are: Border Area Mental Health Services, Partners in Wellness, Youth Development, Inc.,Southern New Mexico Human Development, Hogares, Families and Youth, Inc., Counseling Associates, Southwest Counseling Center, Presbyterian Medical Services (PMS), and Valencia Counseling Services.

Balderas’ predecessor, Gary King, cleared one organization — Counseling Center of Alamogordo — while Balderas cleared two others — Easter Seals El Mirador and Service Organization for Youth.

Balderas said his agency continues to investigate TeamBuilders and Pathways, the remaining two organizations accused of fraud.

‘These two investigations are ongoing and will require that we take additional time in order to ensure that our conclusions are sound,” Balderas wrote.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Human Services Department disagreed with the AG’s decision to not prosecute the organizations.

“The decision to not prosecute clear over-billing and misusing Medicaid funds on things like private planes and luxury travel in the tropics belongs to the Attorney General,” Kyler B.Nerison wrote in an e-mail. “We respect but disagree with that decision and continue to believe that those funds should be used to help the people who need it the most.”

See a backgrounder on this story here.

See a timeline and NMID’s reporting since 2013 here.

This is a developing story.

6 thoughts on “NM Attorney General Exonerates 10 Behavioral Health Providers

  1. We knew from the beginning what a gross and irresponsible abuse of power by the Martinez Administration this was. Treatment for many thousands of Medicaid mental health clients throughout the entire state was disrupted for extended periods of time. Many never reconnected with a provider. Hundreds of staff were affected too, either losing their jobs altogether or being forced to take a pay cut and lose their seniority by staying on with the out of state replacement employer.

    Now, we the taxpayers will likely be on the hook for millions of dollars to settle entirely righteous law suits being brought by the former provider agencies that were forced to close their operations or hang on by their nails due to the frivolous and hostile actions of Martinez. While she will get off scott-free. Justice demands that our Governor be penalized for her behavior toward the clients and businesses, some of whom had been around for decades. We regret that she will not pay.

  2. Who was using funds for private planes amd luxury travel? Is that public information or is it part of the heavily redacted audit? Because I’m not certain I’m comfortable with an administration making accusations like that without a little more transparency.

  3. Lawsuits! Suzanna gets her due; her administration, ruined people’s lives and reputations, endangered mental health consumers and employees. She sold our services to Arizona because she thought she had a hole in one. This was the beginning of her fanatical behavior.

  4. Even Gov. Martinez’ outside auditor did not make accusations of fraud. Her DHS’ pre-emptive strike against the accused behavioral health service providers was an offense against legal due process, which will likely produce litigation against the State, and cost us taxpayers lots of money. It also disrupted services to a vulnerable population. A shameful episode in political cronyism and governmental malpractice.

  5. Wow. I find it interesting that he said “We respect but disagree with that decision and continue to believe that those funds should be used to help the people who need it the most,” when their action removed the funds and shut down the care those people needed. It just doesn’t add up.

  6. Can we put Martinez out of business by accusing her, rightly, of fraud?

    Seriously, right-thinking people need to make it clear to others that fictions about fraud–financial or electoral–are destroying the possibility of sustaining democracy. If we base legislative and executive action (or inaction) on fictions and fabrications, we can never make sensible political decisions of any kind.

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