Legislator: HSD Asked For Less Behavioral Health Money

Feb 22, 2016

Behavioral health funding in New Mexico took about a $4 million hit at the end of last week’s legislative session. But the Human Services Department may have asked for even less money than that.

Democrat John Arthur Smith of Deming is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which is tasked with hammering out state spending. He said, yes, they took millions from behavioral health services, but it wasn’t because New Mexico is so strapped for cash.

Instead, Smith explained, the head of the Human Services Department said they could do with about $6 million less for behavioral health. "The secretary said there was cost savings that he had," Smith said. "We cut because of cost savings. It wasn’t just because of the budget situation, the revenue situation."

The Human Services Department did not respond to requests for comment as of airtime.

Advocates marched on the capital during the session to call for no cuts at all to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. "You know we have an awful lot of uncertainty," Smith said. "I can’t say that I feel good. We’re moving forward precariously."

Those services have been in turmoil after the shakeup a couple of years ago where the state froze Medicaid funding to 15 providers—most of whom have now been cleared of fraud charges.