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Veteran Journalist Calls Out Governor On Transparency In Behavioral Health Audit

There are still many unanswered questions about the state Human Services Department's decision to freeze funding for 15 behavioral health service providers after an audit found evidence of alleged Medicaid fraud. 

Now, Trip Jennings is fed up with what he calls "the silence in all those words that add up to so few answers" provided by Governor Susana Martinez's administration. Jennings is Executive Director of New Mexico In Depth, an online investigative news outlet and one of KUNM's news partners. Jennings has written an open letter to Governor Martinez taking her to task for her administration's lack of transparency on the audit and funding freeze.  

When documents aren't turned over and agency spokespeople stop answering questions, any reporter worth his or her salt begins to suspect that there is a reason nothing is being said, and it's because either officials are incomprehensibly incompetent or they are hiding something. - Jennings' Open Letter to Gov. Martinez

It's not the kind of thing journalists do very often, but Jennings said it's the kind of thing you do when you feel like you've been banging your head against a wall and you're still not getting answers to questions about government decision-making. "We get statements that do not pretend to answer our questions," he explained. "That's the kind of thing that led me to write this open letter."  

Jennings said there haven't been a lot of answers about how the state reached the decision to suspend Medicaid payments to 15 behavioral health providers who serve 30,000 New Mexico clients. "It is totally legal, what the state is doing," Jennings points out, "but they had options and we're trying to understand the process."

The Affordable Care Act created a new standard, the "credible allegations of fraud" standard, to determine when providers should be investigated for Medicaid fraud. Jennings said the public deserves answers as to how the state used its discretion to suspend funding to the non-profits, many of whom provide an important health service to vulnerable members of New Mexico's population. 

Elaine Baumgartel was KUNM's News Director from 2013 to 2019. She was local Morning Edition host from 2007 through 2012 and she regularly hosted the station's live news and public affairs show for some years. Elaine originally came on board at KUNM as a volunteer and student employee in 2003.
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