The Legislative Finance Committee came to the UNM campus this week for a series of committee meetings.  They heard from panels of behavioral health care providers about the kinds of programs they offer and discussed gaps in the system facing patients in New Mexico.

Steve McKernan, CEO of the University of New Mexico Hospital said the hospital sees more than 200,000 individual patients a year. It is now the largest mental health provider in the state. UNMH has an adult psychiatric center, a children’s psychiatric center and a Substance Abuse Program.  UNMH has the only 24 hours psychiatric emergency room in the state. UNMH also has an Assertive Community Treatment program to deliver services to individuals who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness, and Comprehensive Community Support Services.  At Sandoval Regional Medical Center UNM has an in-patient and out-patient program with a particular focus on geriatric patients.

But the purpose of the hearing on potential gaps in the system was nearly overwhelmed by the unexpected appearance of more than 200 people protesting a decision made by Human Services Department Secretary Sidonie Squier.  Although Squier was not on the original agenda, she and Attorney General Gary King were added and asked to address the issue of concern to the protesters.

Behavioral Health Panel and Protest

Squier said she halted funding to 15 behavioral health agencies after an independent audit turned up possible problems with billing and management of claims.  The attorney general told the committee his investigation is active, but will take some time to complete.

Squier told the LFC that management of many of the behavorial health programs involved in the audit may change but that she expected individual therapists and service providers to remain unchanged so that patients could continue working with their counselors.