State Settles With 3 Behavioral Health Providers, AG Taking State Lawmaker's Case

Jul 9, 2019

New Mexico Settles With Behavioral Health ProvidersAssociated Press

New Mexico has reached settlements with three providers whose Medicaid claims were frozen as part of a shake-up in the state's behavioral health care system.

The Human Services Department announced the agreements during a news conference Tuesday. The providers include Hogares, Inc; Valencia Counseling Services, Inc.; and The Counseling Center, Inc.

Under the terms, the parties agree the settlements are a compromise and do not represent an admission of wrongdoing or liability.

In 2013, then-Gov. Susana Martinez's administration froze payments to 15 nonprofits that provided mental health services after an audit identified $36 million in Medicaid overpayments.

An investigation by the state attorney general found no patterns of fraud, only regulatory violations.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase says his agency will continue working with providers to rebuild the state's behavioral health network.

New Mexico Governor Takes Stock Of First 6 Months - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says her administration inherited many challenges and she wants to rebuild the capacity of state government so it will be in a better position to solve problems.

Flanked by her cabinet members, the Democratic governor on Tuesday provided a progress report on her first six months in office.

She acknowledged there's work to be done to restore the public's faith in government. She also vowed repeatedly to be truthful and transparent.

Like previous administrations, Lujan Grisham is grappling with the persistent challenge of jump-starting the economy and attracting revenue-generating enterprises beyond the oil and gas industry.

The governor says economic diversity will be the key to ensuring state government can serve the people, whether it's having the staff to quickly process business licenses or ensuring access to mental health care.

Alleged Use Of Force Incident Involving Gallup Police ProbedAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police say they're investigating an alleged use of force incident involving Gallup police last month that resulted in a man's death.

Officers were dispatched to a department store June 28 to remove an intoxicated man, who was later identified as 41-year-old Rodney Lynch of Gallup.

Police say Lynch was combative with the officers on scene and was taken into custody and transported to an alcohol treatment center.

When they arrived at the facility, police say Lynch struck one of the officers and again became combative.

As officers tried to gain control of Lynch, a sergeant noticed that Lynch appeared unconscious.

Lynch was transported to a Gallup-area hospital and then to an Albuquerque hospital where he later died.

The cause and manner of Lynch's death remains under investigation.

Texas Man Facing Life In Prison After Fatal New Mexico CrashAssociated Press

Federal prosecutors say a Texas man is facing up to life in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to transport immigrants, resulting in a fatal crash in New Mexico.

They say 27-year-old Robert Acevedo of El Paso entered his plea Monday.

He remains in custody awaiting sentencing.

According to court records, Acevedo picked up a group of migrants on April 6 in Doña Ana County.

Border Patrol agents tried to stop Acevedo's minivan using emergency lights and sirens, but he kept driving.

Agents then used a controlled tire deflation device in an attempt to stop Acevedo.

Authorities say Acevedo swerved to avoid the device and lost control of the minivan, causing it to roll over.

They say two passengers died in the crash and at least five others were injured.

Democratic Lawmakers Renew Push For Parole ChangesAssociated Press

Lawmakers are renewing their push to reform New Mexico's parole system, saying it's beset by flaws that cost the state tens of millions of dollars and often denies inmates a chance at successfully integrating back into society.

A legislative committee heard testimony Tuesday about a series of proposals, including one that won legislative approval this year but was vetoed by the governor.

Sponsors say that proposal would require the parole board to provide a written explanation when deciding to deny parole to inmates who have become eligible for a chance at release after a 30-year sentence.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, told lawmakers the bill was built upon "sound policy," but said all stakeholders should participate in the conversation about the bill. Prosecutors across the state had expressed concerns about the measure.

Governor Says Lawmaker Should 'Do The Right Thing'Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says no one is above the law and that elected officials should be held to a higher standard.

She made the comments during a news conference Tuesday when asked whether state Sen. Richard Martinez's constituents would be better served if he resigned.

Martinez, a Democrat from Española, was accused of drunken driving after crashing into another vehicle June 28. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated DWI.

Without calling for Martinez's resignation, Lujan Grisham said she hopes the longtime lawmaker thinks about his position as chair of the Senate judiciary committee as well as the message that the case sends to a community besieged by crime related to alcohol and drugs.

She says she hopeful Martinez "does the right thing."

Martinez has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

DA Asks Attorney General To Take State Lawmaker's Case - Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office plans to prosecute the case of a state lawmaker accused of drunken driving — a move that comes in response to a request from the local district attorney.

Marco Serna, who is the district attorney in the state's First Judicial District, asked the attorney general in a letter last week to take the case of Sen. Richard Martinez, a Democrat from Española.

Serna has recused himself to avoid what a spokesman described as "even the appearance of a conflict of interest."

Serna's jurisdiction includes Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties.

Martinez pleaded not guilty last week to aggravated DWI.

He was arrested and released after a June 28 collision at an intersection in Española, where police say his SUV struck the back of another vehicle.

State Senator Misses Committee Meeting After DWI Arrest - Associated Press

A New Mexico state senator charged with drunken driving has missed a legislative hearing in Santa Fe for a committee that he chairs.

Sen. Richard Martinez, a Democrat from Española, was included on the agenda published ahead of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee meeting held on Monday morning.

Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, who ran the meeting, said Martinez was unavailable.

Rep. Gail Chasey, an Albuquerque Democrat, was the other lawmaker listed as a co-chair for the meeting and arrived late because of a scheduling conflict.

Martinez pleaded not guilty last week to aggravated DWI.

He was arrested after a June 28 collision at an intersection in Española, and booked into jail before being released the following day.

He has not responded to requests for comment.

State Police Investigating Fatal Police Shooting In Tularosa - Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say they're investigating a fatal shooting involving a Tularosa police officer.

They say the officer responded to a report of a man with a rifle who allegedly was firing shots near a restaurant around 9 p.m. Sunday.

The police officer arrived on the scene and had some kind of encounter with the victim, who's been identified as 43-year-old Johnny Vigil of Tularosa.

Authorities say Vigil was shot and transported to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

State Police say details about the incident including what led up to the officer firing his weapon still are under investigation.

Colorado Firm Fined For Death Of Worker In Well Explosion - Durango Herald, Associated Press

A trucking company has been fined $10,608 for an explosion that killed one of its workers in Colorado.

The Durango Herald reports 47-year-old Randy Yellowman of Shiprock, New Mexico, died in a Jan. 2 explosion while working at a natural gas well site.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the fine last week.

Yellowman was working as a driver for Overright Trucking Inc. based in Farmington, New Mexico.

An official says Yellowman was transferring water to his truck when the explosion occurred at the site 327 miles southwest of Denver.

A representative of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe that conducted the investigation into the explosion on its land had no comment.

Overright Trucking officials were not available for comment Monday.

Impaired Driver Crashes Onto Law Enforcement Driving Track - Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say officers were teaching driving techniques at the Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe when an impaired driver crashed his vehicle through a fence and onto the track.

They say 23-year-old Jose Jimenez was arrested Monday on suspicion of driving while under the influence of liquor or drugs.

It appears to be his second DWI offense.

State Police say Jimenez's vehicle veered off a road and through a field before crashing through the fence surrounding the academy's track.

At the time, officers were teaching driving techniques to this year's Youth Academy and had just left the area of the track where the crash occurred.

Members of the Santa Fe Police Department Motor Team also were conducting training on the track.

Authorities say no injuries were reported.

Groups Appeal Ruling Over Santa Fe Thinning Project - Associated Press

Environmentalists are going back to court in hopes of putting the brakes on plans to thin thousands of forested acres in the mountains bordering Santa Fe.

Wild Watershed and others filed their appeal Monday, arguing that a U.S. district court judge erred when allowing the Santa Fe National Forest to move ahead with its plans for Pacheco Canyon and areas near Hyde Memorial State Park.

The plaintiffs say forest officials failed to analyze the cumulative and indirect effects of clearing and burning in the area.

In initially approving the projects, forest managers said the work needed to be done to reduce risks posed by disease, insect infestation and catastrophic wildfire.

The environmentalists are concerned that the projects will end up targeting larger, older trees that are critical for many species.

Teenager Wanted In Bernalillo County Murder Case Is Arrested - Associated Press

Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say a teenager wanted in a homicide case last month is in custody.

The 17-year-old boy was arrested Monday by the U.S. Marshals Service Task Force.

The teen's name isn't being released by The Associated Press because he's a juvenile.

Sheriff's officials say the teenager is facing charges of murder, attempt to commit a felony, aggravated battery, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and shooting at a dwelling.

Authorities say one person was found dead on June 27 and two others had gunshot wounds.

Sheriff's officials have identified the person who died at the scene as 20-year-old Isaiah Villanueva.

They say another teenager also was arrested in the homicide case on June 28 and is facing charges of murder and tampering with tampering with evidence.

US Nuclear Museum, Nonprofit Team Up For Preservation - Associated Press

The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and the Atomic Heritage Foundation are teaming up.

Officials say their new partnership will ensure that the foundation's collection of oral histories and other materials about the top-secret Manhattan Project will remain available to the public.

The nonprofit foundation is closing its Washington, D.C., office. Officials say it's been hard to sustain a fully staffed office as supporters have dwindled over the years.

The foundation notes that less than 3% of World War II veterans are still alive.

Since 2002, the foundation has been posting firsthand accounts and other programs on social media. Last year, 1.6 million people accessed its online resources, and its website audience continues to grow.

The foundation also helped pushed for the creation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.