Las Cruces, NM (KTSM) — A big promise from New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez is bringing relief to thousands of mentally-ill patients in the state.
Last month, an audit identified 15 facilities in the state that had allegedly misused $36 million in funds. Governor Martinez stepped in and halted Medicare and Medicaid payments to all New Mexico mental health providers.
"People are stealing that money and it isn't going to those who deserve it and that's what's most disturbing," she said.
Governor Martinez promised services and treatment will not be impacted by the state's decision to stop those payments to service providers.
"If we're not funding and taking care of these people, we're causing much larger problems," said Melody Burns from Las Cruces.
But Governor Martinez said that's not the case, and changes are on the way.
On Monday, Martinez vowed it will not be the patients that pay for the mistakes of providers.
"It's cut to the CEO and management, who may have mismanaged or may have committed fraud," she said.
Governor Martinez said the state has hired an Arizona company to handle and distribute funds -- which means providers should not have to close.
She said the only ones affected will be the upper level CEO's of these fradulent companies -- CEO's who could potentially face criminal charges.
"Thirty-six million dollars taken from the people who deserve it the most? That's unacceptable in this state. That's why we did an audit, that's why we're going after the bad guys," said Governor Martinez.
At an event in Las Cruces on Monday morning, Governor Martinez was met by demonstrators protesting the cuts in funding and possible closures of several mental health facilities.
She spoke with them one-on-one to set the record straight.
"So many people that are being taken care of in small ways. It's a very small price for the state to be paying," said Burns.
Governor Martinez said it will take the Attorney General about 2 months to complete a review of the audit.
And patients will continue to receive their treatments without any interruptions.