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NM behavioral health spending ineffective, report says

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico state agency that provides substance abuse treatment and services for the mentally ill contested a legislative report Wednesday that says the agency does not have a “comprehensive grasp” on how it spends money on adult behavioral health.

The Legislative Finance Committee report says that just 11 percent of the $209 million the Human Services Department is spending this year on adult behavioral health is being spent on programs found to be proven and effective.

Such programs include drug and mental health courts, peer support and using Methadone and other types of medication-assisted therapy.

However, HSD spokesman Matt Kennicott told reporters after Wednesday’s hearing at the state Capitol the situation was not as dire as portrayed in the legislative report.

“I would say we do have a comprehensive grasp on (how the money is spent),” Kennicott said.

Despite increased spending and a record number of clients being treated last year, New Mexico has one of the nation’s highest suicide rates and roughly one out of five New Mexico adults suffer from mental illness, the legislative report says.

The report also says that about one in 10 adult residents is dealing with a substance abuse or dependence issue.

The state’s behavioral health system has been overhauled several times in recent decades. Most recently, Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration cut off Medicaid funding in to 15 New Mexico nonprofit providers in June 2013, alleging that an audit showed overbilling and possible fraud. Twelve of the providers in that case were replaced by five Arizona providers.

“It’s extremely frustrating to me not just as a legislative member but as a citizen of the state when we end up with virtually no results,” said Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, the LFC’s vice-chairman, according to the Associated Press.

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