By Sarah B. Couch, LMSW
The messages come late at night. Each morning, I open my phone, my Facebook, my email and find a steady stream of anxiety and despair:
“Tell me what’s happening—I see the news and don’t understand! I’m worried about my kids. School is about to start and we need more therapy now, but our therapist says she doesn’t know if she will still be employed next week.”
“My son lost his behavioral management worker and is out of control. I am worried he will need to be hospitalized.”
On June 24, 2013, a newspaper article stated New Mexico had performed an audit at the cost of $3 million dollars. This audit, the paper stated, was performed on 15 of the state’s leading mental health agencies who collectively serve about 85% of the publicly funded population who receives behavioral health services. This works out to about 30,000 individuals. The paper reported the audit found widespread overbilling and credible allegations of fraud. Additionally, the article stated the state was not releasing audit details and was freezing all Medicaid funds to the audited agencies. Agency staff learned this news in the article published to the public. In the past month and a half, agencies have closed their doors as 5 corporations—at the cost of about 18 million dollars for a three-month “transition” period—have been brought in from Arizona to take over our local community mental health agencies. News stories have heavily sided with the administration and been unwilling to voice the experiences of those directly affected.
Despite the state’s relentless cry that services will not be interrupted, they already have been. The human cost of such an endeavor cannot be quantified in the same way we can quantify units of service-$67.61 for an hour of therapy-or fees to out of state contractors-$300 per hour for the transition CEOs. The human cost will, no doubt, show up as increases in incarceration, emergency room usage, and suicide.
“I am so afraid. I’m not eating or sleeping. I’m worried about my own mental health and how I will continue.”
“My son only trusts his current doctor—she was the 5th we tried—what will my son do if she leaves or is fired from our agency?”
For the full story, please visit the original page here: http://www.behavioral.net/print/article/perspective-human-cost-new-mexico-s-behavioral-health-crisis