Senator proposes behavioral health legislation

Posted at: 09/07/2013 10:38 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

There is new legislation on the table Friday that could stop the dis-mantling of New Mexico's mental health system.

The proposal by Senator Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) comes after an audit accused more than a dozen providers of fraud and over billing.

It is a two-pronged piece of legislation.

The first will guide how mental health providers are chosen to contract with the state.

The second will guide how problems are reported, and handled.

"What's happened is we've had behavioral health providers all over New Mexico who've had their funding cut only because some of them are under suspicion," said Keller.

It was last spring when the accusations of fraudulent money management started, and funding for 15 mental health treatment providers was cut.

"Right now thousands of folks are going without these services because of the way this audit response has been handled," said Keller.

Keller said the state's response to the audit cut important services, but also took jobs out of state.

"The administration put in arizona service providers in exchange for new mexico service providers."

Keller's proposal is outlined in a release from the senator's office Friday:

The Behavioral Health Fair Contracting Act would require a competitive bid process for mental health provider contracts.

It also proposes a requirement to use in-state preference by favoring contracts with local providers.

Keller's second proposal, the Behavioral Health Reporting and Accountability Act would create an oversight and accountability board to monitor performance and outcomes for service providers.

It also provides no board member could benefit financially from mental health contracts.

KOB's 4 On Your Side team talked to Governor Susana Martinez in August. She defends how her administration handled the audit findings.

“The Obama healthcare act requires that the funds be terminated as far as going through that company, to be managed by that company, but it does allow for another company to manage the dollars, to pay for the therapists, to provide the services to the patient,” said Martinez

Keller said he plans to introduce the legislation when lawmakers return to the roundhouse in January.