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Gov. Martinez's Administration: Arizona Behavioral Health Providers Are Here To Stay

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There’s been a lot of uncertainty about what new management by out-of-state firms will mean for behavioral health providers in New Mexico. Thursday morning on the KUNM Call In Show some of that uncertainty was dispelled by Diana McWilliams of the state Human Services Department .

McWilliams said Arizona contractors previously described as "transitional" will be permanent administrators for a dozen behavioral health providers who are under investigationfor alleged fraud and mismanagement.  

McWilliams is the Acting Director of the state's Behavioral Health Services Division and she repeated the Human Services Department’s assurances that new management does not mean that New Mexico clinicians will lose their jobs.  She pointed out the department has organized job fairs.

Laurie called in from Albuquerque. She said she had attended a job fair. “The process was a nightmare," she scoffed. "They weren't prepared. All four people for 200 plus employees, mind you, they didn't have answers to questions about pay and leave. Anything that was going to affect an employee, I think the script was 'I don't know.'"  

Critics of HSD's contracts with companies from Arizona have cited the need for jobs in New Mexico. McWilliams defended the state's decision, saying the urgency of providing continuity of service to clients was what forced HSD to contract with out-of-state firms. She saidNew Mexico's behavioral health organizationscouldn’t meet the challenge.

“Frankly the New Mexico providers didn’t have the footprint," McWilliams explained. "They didn’t have the financial capacity.  We certainly have some wonderful wisdom and some great folks that are providing very good services as well as running great agencies. We are going to look to them to help.”

The CEO of Tucson-based behavioral health provider La Frontera, Dan Ranieri, also participated in the discussion.  Ranieri described some of the challenges his firm has faced when taking over management of local organizations that are being investigated for fraud.

“The biggest hurdles that we encountered," said Rainieri, "[were that]was there were no computers or computer systems. Those were not available because they potentially contain evidence. As people come in we’re having them sign a release, and then we’re making copies of critical portions of the chart so that we can start a new chart.  Once we’ve got our system installed all the records are going to be electronic.”

Several callers expressed concern that the Arizona contractors taking over management of New Mexico’s mental health care system won’t be culturally competent.   Ranieri responded that his company has decades of experience meeting that challenge. "In Arizona, the diversity of our staff matches the diversity of our clientele," Rainieri said, "not only at entry level positions but throughout the organization."

And for Paul Weeks, part of the Valencia Counseling Service community for six years, walking away from his clients is not an option.

“Relationship in therapy is the essential,Jungcalls it the alpha and omega of therapy, the relationship.  I plan to work in whatever way to make the transition easy, and if that means seeking employment through the Arizona company then that’s what I’ll do.”

Eight of the local providers who were denied immediate restoration of their Medicaid funding are now awaiting a decision from a federal district court judge in Albuquerque on whether their civil rights to due process were violated.  


Listen to the entire KUNM Call In Show here. 



Here are some excerpts from the show:

Diana McWilliams, Acting Director of the Human Services Department's Behavioral Health Services Division,  first said contracts with AZ providers are temporary, then said the providers will continue to work under Medicaid Expansion in New Mexico beginning January 1, 2014.


McWilliams said some behavioral health providers had misinformed clients about the impacts of a Medicaid funding freeze. 


McWilliams also explained the process of selecting local providers for management by Arizona contractors. 


Dan Ranieri of La Frontera, one of the Arizona firms that is contracting with the state of New Mexico to oversee behavioral health providers, explained some of the challenges they've faced during the transition, including lack of access to medical records for clients. 


Ranieri also responded to callers and panelists who said they were concerned that Arizona providers wouldn't be able to provide culturally appropriate services to New Mexico clients. 



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