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Judge asked to restore providers’ funding

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Behavioral health care providers pleaded with a federal judge Wednesday to order their Medicaid funding restored and showed up in force at a legislative hearing on the issue.

U. S. District Judge Christina Armijo made no immediate decision after a three-hour hearing in Albuquerque. She said it was a difficult decision in light of the vulnerable population involved — the mentally ill and substance abusers.

The Human Services Department argued that it followed the law to the letter when it froze funding to 15 providers after an audit that the department said showed mismanagement and fraud. The department said the federal court should not intervene while the attorney general is investigating. But providers said they should be given “name-clearing” hearings and have funding restored so their clients’ treatment isn’t disrupted.

Meanwhile, about 300 people showed up for a meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee in Albuquerque, many of them clients or employees of TeamBuilders, among the largest of the nonprofits providing services to children and families. CEO Shannon Freedle told lawmakers the nonprofit’s reserves are fast running out.

HSD officials say they have plans in place to have Arizona contractors take over managing some of the providers with as little disruption as possible.

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