April 6 First News: Attorney Demands Mental Health Providers' Money Back

Apr 6, 2016

Now that New Mexico’s attorney general has found none of the mental health providers accused of fraud committed any crimes, the attorney for 10 of the nonprofits suing the state wants it to pay back the money frozen three years ago.  Most of those businesses have had to close their doors since the Martinez administration stopped payments and paid $24-million to five Arizona companies to set up shop in New Mexico.  Bryan Davis says federal rules established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are clear.  *Davis: if no crime was committed, money withheld must be returned.*  Davis says some of his clients want the state to reinstate their Medicaid billing status and get back into business.  The New Mexico Human Services Department has not answered KSFR’s question of when that money will be reimbursed, now that all 15 accused providers have been exonerated.  Stay tuned to our At Noon newscast today for a full-length story on the behavioral health crisis in New Mexico.

Bronx-born Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is sharing her story with students at a private college in New Mexico that is dedicated to reading the great books of the Western canon and Eastern traditions.  Sotomayor is scheduled to speak today at St. John's College in Santa Fe.  The engagement includes an onstage discussion with St. John's President Mark Roosevelt and questions from the audience.  Sotomayor is a witness to how the high court operates with eight justices amid Republican efforts to delay the confirmation of federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as a successor to deceased justice Anthony Scalia.  The jurist of Puerto Rican descent is providing signed copies of a recent memoir tracing her life from a Bronx housing project to the nation's highest court. 

A new complaint says U.S. Border Patrol agents are looting immigrants of possessions before deporting them to Mexico without their IDs or money.  The ACLU of New Mexico and a coalition of advocacy groups filed the administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday and say the seizures are endangering migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.  According to the complaint, immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally were deported without their belongings in 26 separate cases. Advocates say immigrants were deported to cities in Mexico where they have no acquaintances.  ACLU of New Mexico attorney Kristin Greer Love says the seizures have been occurring along the border for years.  DHS spokeswoman Gillian Christensen says the department has a policy of safe-guarding detainees' property.

A criminal fraud and bribery complaint against former New Mexico Sen. Phil Griego has been reassigned to a new judge for the ninth time.  Santa Fe District Court Judge David Thomson was handed the case Tuesday. Griego's attorney excused Judge Sarah Singleton without explanation under provisions designed to ensure impartiality.  Griego pleaded not guilty at a Monday arraignment to criminal counts including fraud, bribery, perjury and tampering with public records. He was released on his own recognizance without a bail requirement.  If one more judge is excused, the next would need to be called in from another district or out of retirement.  Previously, seven judges recused themselves from the Griego case. Delays in the case have highlighted ties in Santa Fe among politicians and judges.

State health officials say a 54-year-old man from Cibola County has died of hantavirus.  The New Mexico Department of Health says it's the second case of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome in the state this year.  An environmental investigation will be conducted at the patient's home to help reduce the risk to others.  The name of the victim wasn't released yesterday.  Hantavirus is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings or saliva.  People can contract the disease when they breathe in aerosolized virus. Health officials say the deer mouse is the main carrier for the hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.  Since 1993, New Mexico has reported 103 lab-confirmed HPS cases with 43 deaths. That's the highest number of cases of any state.

The University of New Mexico has installed 21 "lactation stations" on campus for breastfeeding mothers, and the state's other universities may be following its lead.  KRQE-TV reports that the university also has a new lactation policy and a breastfeeding support group. Women on the campus say the lactation stations are a huge relief and prevent the need to breastfeed or pump in restrooms.  The New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force is impressed with UNM's lactation policy and wants to use it as an example for other colleges and universities in the state. The Task Force's workplace liaison, MJ Vargas, says the policy helps reduce the disparity for moms going back to school.  Central New Mexico Community College and New Mexico State University have also added lactation stations.

Residents and businesses opposed to Albuquerque's rapid transit project are suing.  Attorneys filed two lawsuits Monday that ask a judge to stop the project, arguing the city violated the National Historic Preservation Act as well as local and federal laws.  Mayor Richard Berry's chief staff member Gilbert Montaño says the city has confidence in the project's legal standing.  Construction is scheduled to start in the summer.  One lawsuit was filed in federal court while the other is in state court. Both name federal and city officials.

And just across our southern US border, the Mexican army says it has discovered almost an acre of opium poppies growing in the township of Ensenada, near San Diego.  Soldiers destroyed the two poppy plantations in the hills near the Baja California city, which is about 60 miles south of the California border.  Opium poppies are usually a mountain crop grown farther south in Mexico. But Mexican cartels have been expanding poppy production to export heroin to the United States.  The army's Second Military Region said in a press statement Tuesday that the poppies were destroyed by cutting and burning. Smaller marijuana plots found in the same area Monday also were destroyed.