- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - An Arizona-based provider of substance abuse and mental health services is leaving New Mexico, making it the fourth of five such nonprofits to withdraw from the state.

Valle del Sol is one of five Arizona nonprofits that began contracting with the New Mexico Human Services Department in 2013 to provide treatment for low-income New Mexicans, The New Mexican (https://bit.ly/2hfYKc2 ) reported. Three of the Arizona nonprofits have already left the state, and Valle del Sol’s plans to leave have raised questions about how the behavioral health shake-up has affected Medicaid treatment in a state with some of the highest rates of poverty, suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol-related deaths.

The Human Services Department will encourage Valle del Sol to stay in the state, according to agency spokesman Kyler Nerison. He said the department will coordinate with the state’s Medicaid program and its contractors to ensure access to behavioral health care isn’t interrupted if Valle del Sol does leave.

Valle del Sol’s chief development officer, Angelica Florez, confirmed that the organization is working with the Human Services Department to create a smooth transition plan for patients at its seven locations in New Mexico.

The nonprofit is one of the few behavioral health service providers in Espanola, where opioid overdose rates are among the highest in the nation. Valle del Sol’s other locations are in Bernallilo, Los Lunas, Grants, Moriarty, Taos and Raton, according to Florez. She would not say how many patients and employees the organization has in the state or whether workers can expect layoffs.

The Arizona providers began treating New Mexico Medicaid patients after the Health Services Department accused New Mexico-based behavioral health contractors of fraudulent billing practices and froze Medicaid reimbursements for most of those organizations. Investigations and legal battles forced many of the behavioral health providers to close, although the state attorney general has cleared all 15 organizations of criminal wrongdoing.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com

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