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New ad assails mental health shake-up

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SANTA FE – There’s a radio rumble playing out over New Mexico’s recent behavioral health system shake-up.

Just days after a newly organized nonprofit launched radio ads touting Gov. Susana Martinez’s handling of a reorganization of state mental health care providers, another group has paid for a spot on an Albuquerque radio station that criticizes the Martinez administration.

The anti-Martinez ads are the work of a loose-knit coalition of mental health specialists, advocates and clients called “New Mexicans Fighting to Save Behavioral Health.”

The group has raised roughly $3,500 in donations from supporters and is using the nonprofit Resources for Change Policy Works – a tax-exempt charitable organization that does not have to disclose its donors – as a vessel to launch the ads, said the coalition’s spokeswoman, Linda Siegle.

The ads are scheduled to air only through today but could be expanded to other parts of the state and aired longer if more money is raised, she said.

“The point is to make the public aware there are different positions on this issue,” said Siegle, who created the nonprofit with her wife, Santa Fe County Commissioner and former state Sen. Liz Stefanics.

Behavioral health advocacy groups have protested the Martinez administration’s June action to suspend Medicaid payments to 15 providers.

The decision to halt funding came after an audit showed $36 million in overbilling, mismanagement and possible fraud, according to the state Human Services Department, which said it was acting under federal requirements.

The audit has been referred to Attorney General Gary King’s office, which is investigating. The audit has not been publicly released.

Meanwhile, Arizona companies have been brought in by HSD to manage some of the Medicaid-funded operations under scrutiny.

The anti-Martinez ad claims that the decision to suspend Medicaid payments was made without due process or evidence of wrongdoing. It also claims the “shutdown” has caused dozens of behavioral health specialists to leave the state.

“The governor has placed New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens in the hands of Arizona CEOs who aren’t familiar with our traditions or our culture and are being paid up to $300 an hour during the transition,” the ad states.

The pro-Martinez ads, which are running on radio stations statewide this week, are being paid for by New Mexico Competes. That nonprofit is headed by a former Martinez administration deputy Cabinet secretary.

The narrator in the ad supporting the governor urges listeners to call the Governor’s Office to voice support for the shake-up.

“Gov. Susana Martinez is cracking down on Medicaid fraud, ordering the audit to root it out and turning over the findings to law enforcement,” the ad says.

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