Audit reveals evidence of "fraud, abuse and waste" in NM mental health agencies

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - An audit of mental health providers in New Mexico revealed evidence of Medicaid fraud and abuse, according to the state Human Services Department.

Officials said $36 million in taxpayer money may have been wasted.

The state is investigating 15 mental health providers throughout the state. During the investigation, the state has cut its funding to those providers.

Several, including one in Las Cruces, said they will have to close their doors if funding is not restored.

Employees and patients of Southwest Counseling Center are anxiously waiting on a decision from an Albuquerque judge.

The judge will decide whether the state will be forced to resume Medicaid payments.

Roque Garcia, the executive director of Southwest Counseling Center, told ABC-7 those payments are about 95 percent of the center's funding.

He said the state owes his company roughly $1 million.

If the judge decides against the health care providers, Garcia said his center would have to close within a week and a half.

Garcia said his agency has never had a problem with audits before. He called this audit "very sloppy."

Matt Kennicott, a spokesman for the state Human Services Department, said if that happens, patients would not lose their doctors. He said a transitional agency would step in to run the center. Kennicott said any doctors currently working there who want to stay would be hired by the agency.

Kennicott said the state had to pull funding because of federal law.

"Our No. 1 obligation is to make sure that these consumers continue receiving care, and we have plans in place to make sure that happens," he told ABC-7.

"It's somebody pointing a finger at you, somebody whispering behind your back and suddenly you're under criminal investigation and you don't know why," Garcia said.

Garcia said he expects a decision from the judge by Friday.

The state gave its findings to the attorney general's office. The AG has agreed to investigate the claims against all 15 mental health providers.

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