Lawmakers Seek Answers From Mental Health Care Officials

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nunst052Santa Fe, N.M. – A Democratic state senator is asking Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s administration for answers as a mental health provider prepares to leave southern New Mexico.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen said she’s concerned about the thousands of people who currently receive care from Arizona-based La Frontera, who is set to stop services June 1.

Papen outlined her questions about continuing patient care in a four-page letter made public Monday. She also had sent the letter to three of Martinez’s cabinet members.

Papen said an independent assessment of La Frontera’s performance confirms that the needs of those with serious mental illnesses haven’t been met over the last 21 months.

The state Human Services Department disputes that assertion and says it’s working to help clients find the services they need.

“I am deeply concerned about the clients that La Frontera will be leaving behind,” said Papen in a statement, “And the thousands of former clients of the providers that La Frontera replaced who should have been, and were not served.”

The Tucson-based nonprofit confirmed earlier this month that it plans to cease providing Medicaid-funded mental health services in southern New Mexico, becoming the second large company to do so. The entity said it planned a staggered transition to phase out its operations in Doña Ana and several other counties, casting uncertainty on services for nearly 3,800 clients.

The other Arizona-based provider that has already closed shop is Turquoise Health and Wellness. It offered mental health to Medicaid patients in Carlsbad and other locations in southeastern New Mexico.

The state has thousands of small and large providers, but fewer in the latter category.

La Frontera and Turquoise were brought in to replace other Medicaid-funded providers that were terminated under a shake-up in 2013 spurred by allegations that $36 million in Medicaid funding was mishandled by 15 nonprofit providers.

Martinez’s administration froze payments to the nonprofits while the attorney general’s office launched an investigation. Reviews into three of the providers are complete, and no fraud was found in at least two of the cases.

In two cases, state courts have ruled that the Human Services Department violated the due-process rights of the removed providers by refusing to accept their explanations about billing irregularities.

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