December 4, 2019

State settles with five more behavioral health providers over 2013 funding freeze

The state settled with five more behavioral health providers who had sued after the state froze their access to Medicaid funding in 2013. At the time, the state said it had found credible allegations of fraud by the providers.

The new settlements totaled $10 million and are the last of the ten lawsuits filed by providers over the funding freeze.

These latest settlements were paid to Santa Maria El Mirador, the provider formerly known as Easter Seals El Mirador; Border Area Mental Health Services; Southwest Counseling Center, Inc.; Southern New Mexico Human Development, Inc.; and Families and Youth, Inc.

The state’s Attorney General cleared all providers that the Susana Martinez administration accused of fraud. The suspension caused a behavioral health crisis in New Mexico.

“The governor tasked me with fixing behavioral health in New Mexico,” state Human Services Department Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D., said in a statement. “With all of the lawsuits behind us, we will work together with these providers and others to focus on building a new behavioral health care system in our state, provide new and expanded services and ensure that what happened in 2013 never happens again.”

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said she was grateful to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Scrase for settling the suits.

“Now, we can get providers back in business to help those individuals who have had to do without needed behavioral health care services,” Papen said.

“As Auditor and Attorney General, my priority was to expose the tragic destruction of the behavioral health system by the former Governor, so I’m pleased that the State is finally rebuilding a system that must support vulnerable New Mexican families in need,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement.

Santa Maria El Mirador received the largest portion of the settlement, 29.4 percent, followed by Border Area Mental Services (21.4 percent); Southwest Counseling Center, Inc. (21.4 percent); Families and Youth, Inc. (17.4 percent); and Southern New Mexico Human Development, Inc. (10.4 percent).

In 2013, the state said they found credible allegations of fraud among 15 behavioral health providers and froze funding for their services. The lack of funding caused several providers to go out of business. Three years later, Balderas had cleared all of the providers of the allegations of fraud.

Lujan Grisham’s administration said it is working toward rebuilding the state’s behavioral health system.