By Tina Jensen
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Some lawmakers say what's happening to New Mexico's behavioral health providers and their patients is so bad, the legislature needs to call itself into session to do something about it. The state froze payments to 15 of the state's largest mental health providers after an audit showed signs of fraud. The providers still don't know what they're accused of.
"We know nothing" said Nancy Jo Archer, former CEO of Hogares in Albuquerque, one of the providers called into question by the audit. "We have know idea what the allegations are."
Critics say an Arizona company's takeover of the management has left New Mexico's shaky mental healthcare system even more vulnerable, with therapists and staffers quitting and patients not receiving the services they had before.
Some Democrats are trying to drum up support for an extraordinary session of the legislature, when lawmakers call themselves into session. That's only happened once in state history - in 2002, to address a budget issue. The goal of the extraordinary session would be to pass a bill that would restore funding to the non-profits until they had a chance to answer the findings in the audit.
"There's urgency here," said Sen. Bill O'Neill, D-Albuquerque. "If we wait until January, it's too late for a lot of these folks."
It would take bipartisan support to pull it off.
At least five GOP members of the House and one from the Senate would have to agree with every Democrat to call the session. Even more bipartisan support would be needed to override a Governor veto of a bill that's passed. O'Neill says that's possible.
"I know my Republican friends and many are concerned about how this has been handled," he said - adding the efforts are too new to gage the Republican response to the proposal.
Governor Martinez has defended her administration's actions, saying they were necessary to avoid corruption. A spokesperson for the New Mexico Human Services Department also defended how the administration is handling the situation.
"Quite frankly, if we would have taken a different course of action, we would have had to ignore the findings of the audit," said spokesperson Matt Kennicott.
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