Members or representatives of the state's entire congressional delegation say they met on April 30 with US Health and Human Services Department Secretary Sylvia Burwell to express concerns about a service shakeup here.
"New Mexico's behavioral health services are in crisis, devastating patients across the state, including many children," Sen. Tom Udall said in a prepared statement. "While Medicaid is a state program, and it will take strong state leadership to get these services back on track, I'm glad Secretary Burwell committed to using every tool in her toolbox to help New Mexico restore our behavioral health system. Thousands of New Mexicans depend on these services, including some with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders. This disruption threatens their livelihoods and families, and we need a long-term, transparent solution."
Sen. Martin Heinrich, Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan, all Democrats along with Udall, and a staff member for Republican Rep. Steve Pearce reportedly attended the meeting.
In 2013, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez' Human Services Department froze Medicaid payments to providers accused of fraudulently receiving federal money, pending the results of criminal probes into them by the attorney general, whose office already cleared two of the providers. Other investigations remain ongoing.
State officials refute the narrative that the shakeup has resulted in disruptions in care to the vulnerable patient population. Asked to respond to the congressional Democrats' statements, HSD spokesman Matt Kennicott calls them "false."
"In fact, since changing providers, we are now serving more consumers than ever before," he says, referring to the five Arizona agencies the state shipped in to provide services in place of the accused providers. "Last year, we saw a 30.8 percent increase in the number of consumers served, and we are continuing our commitment to serve New Mexicans in need."