Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Turquoise pullout both sad and ironic


January 27, 2015

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QCS Managing Editor

Turquoise Health and Wellness’s pullout from New Mexico is sad and ironic.

Turquoise, a subsidiary of Lifewell Behavioral Wellness, of Phoenix, Arizona, was one of five Arizona behavioral health firms who rushed in at the state’s invitation to fill in the gap left when funds were cut off to 15 New Mexico-based behavioral counseling firms in 2013. The local firms, it was alleged, had overcharged in their billing for Medicaid program services.

Now a year and a half later, after their cries for more money were ignored, Turquoise and other Arizona firms called in by Sedonie Squier, secretary of the state’s Human Services Department, to rescue the state’s behavioral health programs are pulling out.

The firms’ adventure in New Mexico seems to be ending badly not only for the operations based in New Mexico, but for the parent organizations in Arizona that set up the shops in New Mexico.

The Arizona Republic reported in December that all of the parent firms of the New Mexico companies were hurting financially due to their New Mexico adventures, and the financial harm was affecting their service in Arizona, as well. Lifewell’s $3 million in loans gone sour to Turquoise were affecting service to Arizonans, too, the Republic and the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The saviors of New Mexico’s behavioral health system now need saving, and New Mexico is still faring poorly in behavioral health outcomes, according to a study done for the New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee.

The study said one of the reasons the state’s mental health infrastructure is in crisis is that the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates don’t cover the cost of providing service, let alone profits.

This leads one to wonder if the locally based providers who were driven out had to overcharge in order to receive adequate compensation. Should HSD have done some self-examination instead?

For clients in New Mexico who receive treatment through these agencies, there will be yet another major disruption in service. These are people — many of them children — who are facing issues related to drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence,and abuse and neglect.

Many are in court-ordered treatment plans for violent and disruptive behaviors. They now face yet another major interruption in service, and changes in providers that sometimes means starting all over again in building the trust that behavioral health treatment requires.

Mental Health Resources, a respected, long-time eastern New Mexico behavioral health provider, has announced it will be taking over behavioral health services from Turquoise in Curry, Roosevelt, Quay, De Baca and Harding counties, effective April 1. The firm’s executive director Chris Tokarski said his firm is “working very, very closely with Turquoise to ensure that any transition of care continues so that there is no disruption.”

It’s sad, however, that the state has brought much turmoil into behavioral health issues with such apparently disappointing results.

While we can question the motives for removing locally based firms, only to experience new failure with “outside” rescuers, we also see there is no choice but to keep on trying.

Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at [email protected]


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