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Feds eye behavioral health flap

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Federal officials quietly visited New Mexico this week to talk to consumers, their families and some nonprofit providers after the shake-up in the state’s behavioral health system.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed Thursday that the site visits occurred this week, although a spokeswoman could not provide the dates.

Human Services Department spokesman Matt Kennicott said his agency was told the visits to six locations throughout the state would be held Tuesday through Thursday. HSD was not included in the visits.

Deborah Armstrong, district director for Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said the visiting teams also included representatives of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Armstrong said the visits were scheduled because of the request from Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation that federal officials look into complaints of interruptions in services during the transition to new behavioral health providers.

The HSD in late June halted Medicaid payments to 15 providers of mental health and substance abuse services, saying an audit had shown overbilling, mismanagement and possible fraud. The attorney general is investigating. Twelve of the 15 have had their behavioral health operations taken over by Arizona providers brought in by HSD.

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