Media Scrutiny Finally Gives Behavioral Health Debacle the Investigation Warranted

Contact: Erika Martinez

July 2, 2014

Media Scrutiny Finally Gives Behavioral Health Debacle the Investigation Warranted
Democrat Lawmakers Pleasedand Hoping to Learn More

Santa Fe, NM – Democrat lawmakers say it’s about time that New Mexico’s behavioral health debacle has finally gotten the media attention it deserves. After months of lawmakers questioning the Arizona takeover and handling of the state’s behavioral health system, they are discovering that the money spent on the transition clearly shows a lack of concern for state money by those who approved payments.

According to this week’s reporting in the Santa Fe New Mexican, investigations have shown that Arizona companies billed the state about $24 million dollars. That’s around $6 million more than the administration originally told lawmakers it would cost for the takeover. According to the New Mexican, hourly rates of $200-$300 an hour for tasks like “making staff IDs” and “janitorial and grounds” services were billed to the state’s Human Services Department. Managers and staff also billed that same amount while waiting at airports and one manager even billed $25,375 for one week alone.

Senator Bill O’Neill (D-13-Bernalillo) a longtime advocate of behavioral health in New Mexico and one of the transition’s most vocal critics says this information solidifies the fact that the Martinez administration will do whatever it takes for political gain. Some speculate that these contracts have lead to financial campaign support for her political aspirations. There is at least one political connection between the governor and one important Arizona business man linked to La Frontera Center: one of the Arizona providers.

“I think that the Martinez administration has made a political calculation that the dismantling of our already tenuous behavioral health system will not register with the average New Mexico voter,” Sen. O’Neill said. “I think that they are wrong in going through with the transition and spending irresponsibly. We need those dollars here, not out of state. In New Mexico, we care about those less fortunate. We care about the family up the street whose son needs in patient drug addiction treatment, or the homeless woman talking to herself as she pushes her shopping cart across the street.”

Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-12-Bernalillo), a member of the Legislature’s Behavioral Health Subcommittee, said he wants a review of the spending, which he hopes will provide New Mexico citizens with more clarification and answers. “We’ve been questioning the transition and the money spent on it for months. It’s good to see that some media outlets are finally giving the issue some light. This pay for play tactic should not be used, especially when it comes to highly important and sensitive issues like behavioral health. I hope to gain answers soon so that New Mexico citizens are informed about what this administration is doing and its real motivation,” he said.