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New Mexico Behavioral Health Auditor Helped Vet Arizona Firms Before Finishing Work

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New Mexico Behavioral Health Auditor Questioned

New Mexico Behavioral Health Auditor Questioned

In June the state of New Mexico froze Medicaid payments to 15 behavioral health providers due to " credible allegations of fraud." The agencies were then taken over by five mental health firms from Arizona. But controversial practices by auditors are raising new questions about the states actions.

When the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) froze Medicaid funding to mental health providers, they passed information to the attorney generalfor possible criminal charges and drew up contracts with Arizona firms to take over. The basis for the move came from an audit conducted by Massachusetts based Public Consulting Group (PCG).

But New Mexico lawmakers learned this week that PCG, along with New Mexico HSD officials, had visited at least one Arizona firm before even starting the controversial audit which shuttered 15 New Mexico providers. 

PCG Representative Thomas Aldridge spoke to a New Mexico legislative subcommittee.

“It happened before the audit ever began, so I don't know if that in particular,” Aldridge stammered. “We were engaged in… It was an hour-long meeting.”

Aldridge added that he did not see a conflict of interest in his duties as auditor and as advisor to HSD on the competency of Arizona companies to come to New Mexico. However, State Senator Mary Kay Papen had a different opinion.

“I think you're there auditing our providers in this state,” Papen said. “Then for you then to be going out and picking new providers before the audit has been finished and the attorney general has finished, I guess I do see that as a conflict of interest, but I guess we have a disagreement.”

To date, the New Mexico Human Services Department has refused to release the audit in question to lawmakers, reporters or even those accused of fraud.

Tristan Ahtone was a reporter for the Fronteras Desk from 2012 to 2014.