Mental health clinics plead case against funding cuts

Posted at: 07/17/2013 7:58 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The Human Services Department is currently investigating credible allegations of fraud among 15 mental health organizations across the state. 

During that time they've had to suspend Medicaid funding to those groups because if they didn't and fraudulent behavior was proven, the state would have to pay back federal funds used during the fraudulent periods.

Some patients, though, fear what could happen.

After seeing a therapist at Valencia Counseling Services for 5 years Lynne Getchell got comfortable.

"it has taken a long time of therapy to get where I'm at," Getchell said. "to be stable, and you can't just go from one person to the next- you'd have to start all over again."

She fears if they close, she'll have trouble staying well.

VCS says it will lose money while the state investigates and could eventually have to close.

"If they close us down, there's not a lot of providers to refer to," CEO Sam Vigil said.

That makes things tough for patients who can't afford travel.

"They're not gonna be in Los Lunas, Valencia County, they're gonna be in Albuquerque," one patient said. "We can't get to Albuquerque."

Hundreds of protestors supported the clinics at a rally Wednesday. The state says it's a catch-22 but if they don't freeze funding and the clinics are guilty, it would hurt New Mexico.

For patients affected, though, this impacts their futures

"The fear of losing your lifeline just sets a panic that you wouldn't believe," Getchell said. "It's not just anybody, it's the person that's been working with you."

Today the HSD secretary testified before the state's legislative finance committee about the allegations. She says if true, they've costed taxpayers $36 million.