With increasing amazement and sorrow, I’ve watched unfold the behavioral health saga in New Mexico with the Arizona takeover of 15 long standing New Mexico provider non-profits. Last week, I sat in a meeting where some of the targeted providers provided a very different story than has surfaced in public coverage of these events. Affected consumers also shared their stories.
I came away with the sense that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg the impact this misadventure has and will have for many decades on communities and people’s lives across New Mexico. One person described it as the tsunami that will touch every corner of New Mexico.
Even if we reversed everything tomorrow, our fragile support system for vulnerable children and adults touched by mental health issues, their families, their schools, workplaces, etc. can never be the same. Skilled providers in our rural communities have already begun leaving the state. Providers seeking certification in the new health plans and MCO’s are withdrawing their applications saying they don’t want to work in such a climate of uncertainty and lack of loyalty to patients and employees. Charges of intentional criminality have shattered both providers and clients.
Those of us who know New Mexico’s deeply rooted communities whose fabric goes back centuries and, in the case of tribal communities, millennia, wonder how it was conceivable to bring in entities from another state. Others ask where was the state and their oversight vendor in providing training and management guidance. Still others ask what agendas are at play.
But what stills the heart are the stories, the people’s stories – the grandmother of an eight-year old who has lost her BMS worker just before school starts and as her behavior escalates, puts her fist through a wall; the anguished mother who watches the increasing anxiety and regression of her 23 year old son with schizophrenia as his provider non-profit changes are happening… the stories go on.
New Mexico must act quickly to create opportunities for state and federal decision makers to hear from those affected by this surging crisis and investigate the process that brought us this crisis and learn from it. Brakes need to be placed on a process that has ignored due process, respect and client safety.
The basic therapeutic relationship as well as public stewardship is one of trust. Trust has been broken at many levels and action needs to be taken immediately. Because if not, we are all doomed in New Mexico to collectively become La Llorona: condemned to wander New Mexico forever asking, donde estan mis hijos, where is the mother with postpartum depression, the father on the road to recovery, the young teens without hope, the veterans who could not forget? Where are those we are pledged to protect? Like La Llorona, we have abandoned our own for the promises and resources of outsiders. New Mexico, New Mexico, can we change our looming fate of becoming La Llorona?
- Barbara Webber, HANM Executive DirectorHealth Action