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Monday, July 29, 2013 - 11:34pm
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The controversial takeover of 15 of New Mexico's mental healthcare facilities is officially underway after an Arizona firm replaced management at Southwest Counseling Center in Las Cruces Monday.
The change in leadership comes after a statewide audit revealed possible evidence of fraud totaling $36 million.
"Our number one duty is to consumers of these services and we want to make sure these transitions are happening smoothly," said Matt Kennicott, spokesperson for New Mexico Human Services Department.
La Frontera, the company now charged with managing funds, and HSD met with Southwest Counseling Center and informed the 50-year-old company would have only 72 hours to complete the transition.
"In three days we were supposed to transfer everything, it was total chaos," said now former CEO Roque Garcia.
Garcia is one of more than a dozen CEO's statewide that will be replaced by an 'executive director' from La Frontera.
The change will be in effect until Attorney General Gary King can review the audit and determine if there was any wrong doing.
What troubled Garcia is the audit is sealed and he said he was not given due process and the opportunity to clarify any discrepancies.
"It can't be possibly happening here in this country," he said.
The state said services will remain unchanged to the patient in large part to retaining 95 percent of the staff at Southwest Counseling Center.
Kennicott said they expect similar transitions at the other facilities that are currently begin handled on a case by case basis.