NM critics bash service to addicts, mentally ill

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Services to drug addicts and mentally disabled residents are being disrupted as New Mexico nonprofits are taken over by companies brought in by state authorities, critics of a state audit say.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/16VyF1K ) that callers told federal officials in a “listening session” Wednesday that the upheaval has created fear, uncertainty and distrust among clients.

Twenty-seven callers, largely consumers, advocates and behavioral health workers, phoned in during a 90-minute session and voiced their displeasure of the fallout from the transition.

The New Mexico Human Services Department in June froze payments to 15 nonprofits that provide mental health and substance abuse services after an audit found what the agency said was a high rate of billing problems and possible mismanagement.

Some of the 15 nonprofits are currently being transitioned to management by outside companies — a move that has drawn fire from advocates.

Paul Weeks, a therapist at the former Valencia Counseling Service in Los Lunas — now being operated as of this week by Arizona provider Valle del Sol — said his agency has lost nine of 12 mental health therapists, leaving hundreds of clients without therapists. The agency’s housing director for the homeless, a drug-and-alcohol counselor, and three of five staff in the psychosocial rehabilitation program also are gone, he said.

“There are many clients that are going to be waiting quite some time before they get services,” Weeks said.

The session was scheduled by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration after Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation requested an immediate public hearing.

There was no immediate response from Valle del Sol officials, but Human Services Department spokesman Matt Kennicott told the Journal that some of that turnover “was precipitated by outgoing management telling people to go find new jobs.”

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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