N.M. State audit could put thousands of mentally ill patients at risk

N.M. State audit could put thousands of mentally ill patients at risk

POSTED: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 10:37pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 9:06am

30,000 mentally ill patients could have no place to go for help, after the State of New Mexico has cut funding for their treatments. It all started last month after an audit allegedly found that fifteen New Mexico mental health and substance abuse service providers failed to meet standards, over-billed the federal and state government by tens of millions of dollars, and may have taken part in fraudulent activities.

Four of the fifteen providers named in the audit are from Las Cruces.

"It would be a very difficult transition for me in order to maintain my mental health," said Matthias Schackow, a patient of the center.

Schackow is worried he will lose his treatments for Bipolar Disorder and ADHD, now that the state of New Mexico has stopped most funding for the Southwest Counseling center in Las Cruces.

"From day to night as far as the way I function in society. The way I interact with my family. It's a whole lot more peaceful and its not as dysfunctional," said Schackow.

And he's not just worried about himself but other patients too.

"Incarceration, hospitalization and even suicide," said Schackow.

Roque Garcia is the CEO of Southwest Counseling Center, where patients get a combination of therapy and medication.The center is now losing $400,000 dollars a month.

"It's gonna be difficult on the populations that we serve. There's no way around it," said Garcia.

He says he has never been informed of what exactly was found in the audit of the center.

"We have not received any kind of due process," said Garcia.

Garcia says just a few weeks ago, the New Mexico Human Services Department officials notified him and 14 other providers they were shutting off Medicaid and other taxpayer sources after an audit revealed allegations of fraud exceeding $36M. Garcia even had to take out a personal loan to pay his employees.

"To the AG's office I've actually sent an email saying please come investigate as soon as possible. We need to get our name cleared as soon as possible,” said Garcia.

While administrative mistakes are possible, Garcia says nothing near the level of criminal activity alleged by the HSD has occurred.

Eight of the service providers have joined together and filed a federal lawsuit that will go to court on Wednesday.
Newschannel Nine reached out to the New Mexico Attorney General, who apparently is not allowed to comment now that it is a criminal investigation.

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Sadly the ones that will suffer are the consumers. There are those fragile individuals who has suffered traumatic experiences, abuse, been a victim of crime, or born with mental health issues ...who rely on the therapists and staff at Southwest Counseling and the other fifteen agencies to be a life line. The Counselors work to shard to earn their degrees and licensure and they will pay too with job losses and unemployment. Rebecca

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