The 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.