May 1, 2015

Delegation meets with HHS head to discuss behavioral health concerns

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Health MoneyMembers of the New Mexico congressional delegation met with a U.S. cabinet secretary yesterday to discuss behavioral health issues within the state.

U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, along with U.S. Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján met with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to discuss concerns of behavioral health providers in New Mexico. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce was represented by a member of his staff.

In a statement, all four Democratic lawmakers said they were disappointed in the current state of behavioral health services in the state and that they wanted to see change. Pearce is the lone Republican in New Mexico’s congressional delegation.

Luján said in the statement he was appreciative of the chance to speak with the Burwell.

“Our meeting was an important opportunity to make clear to Secretary Burwell that New Mexicans continue to be impacted by the upheaval in the state’s behavioral health system,” he said.

Two years ago, the state’s Human Services Department said they had found credible allegations of fraud for 15 behavioral health providers. The department withheld federal funding to those providers, which led some to close. The state later contracted with Arizona companies to replace them. Currently, two of the Arizona providers are preparing to leave the state.

Udall said the two companies leaving will create problems for patients in need of care.

“This disruption threatens their livelihoods and families, and we need a long-term, transparent solution,” Udall said.

While Pearce sent a staff member as a representative, a spokesman for his office said he did not have a comment about the meeting.

Last year, the Democratic delegation sent a letter to Burwell asking for more oversight from her office. Read the letter below.

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