Even in his final days of battling leukemia in early 2016, Jose Frietze was fighting for the youth services agency he founded in 1977. The state Human Services Department had accused the organization — Las Cruces-based Families and Youth Inc. — of potential Medicaid fraud and overbilling by $856,745 in 2013. A stop payment of $1.5 million in Medicaid funding for services already provided crimped FYI’s cash flow, leading to layoffs. And because of the accusations, FYI was forced to hand off part of its business to an Arizona company brought in by Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration. Frietze’s daughters Victoria and Marisa remember how tough the allegations were on Frietze and their family.
Years after the state cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health providers, citing “credible allegations of fraud,” the Attorney General cleared all providers of the alleged fraud. AG Hector Balderas made finishing the investigation into the providers a key goal when he entered office in 2015. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6; #5: NM Dems buck national trend, retake House; #4: Demesia Padilla resigns
In April, Balderas announced the investigation was complete, with no evidence of fraud in the final two companies. Balderas previously cleared ten providers in February, and had already cleared two others in 2015. The allegations of fraud came from a 2013 audit for the state Human Services Department by Boston-based Public Consulting Group.
Another of the behavioral health providers brought in from Arizona to fill the gap made after the state Human Services Department cut off funding to 15 organizations is leaving the state. Valle del Sol is the fourth of five organizations from Arizona that were brought into the state in 2013 to take over behavioral health services to leave the state. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that an executive with Valle del Sol said the company is working with HSD on the transition to aid patients. A spokesman for HSD said the same thing to the northern New Mexico paper. Valle del Sol had seven locations throughout the state.
After testimony from officials from three nonprofits that provided behavioral health services which were targeted with fraud allegations but later cleared by the Attorney General,a second New Mexico lawmaker called for state Human Services Department Secretary Brent Earnest to resign. “This is just morally repugnant behavior that this administration, this department, has done,” state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, said Wednesday at an interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee meeting. “It’s criminal and obscene.”
Trujillo and eight other state lawmakers listened to the heads of three of the 15 behavioral health organizations that were infamously accused of “credible allegations of fraud” in 2013 by HSD’s then-Secretary Sidonie Squier. The department cited an audit from Boston-based Public Consulting Group that found $34 million in Medicaid fraud between the 15 providers. Squier cut off Medicaid funding from the providers, but the Attorney General’s Office has since cleared all from any wrongdoing.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she is “angry” over the behavioral health crisis, a day after the Attorney General released a report clearing ten more providers. Lujan Grisham had previously said in statements to other outlets that she supported an investigation into what went wrong, but spoke to NM Political Report on Tuesday while in a car in Washington D.C. on her way to a vote. “The state needs to investigate exactly how we got here,” she said. State Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, also called for an investigation into the situation. The Democrat from Albuquerque added “someone needs to be held accountable” for the shakeup that put many providers out of business.
A prominent state senator is calling for Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration to be investigated for shutting down Medicaid funding from 15 behavioral health providers in 2013. Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, made the statements following an investigation by Attorney General Hector Balderas’ that cleared 10 of the providers of fraud this week. Three others had already been cleared by Balderas’ office. “The public deserves some answers of what took place, why did it took place and the justification of this tremendous impact to the state of New Mexico,” Morales told NM Political Report Tuesday. The state Human Services Department shut off funding from the 15 providers in 2013 after an audit from Boston-based Public Consulting Group found “credible allegations of fraud” in an audit that year.