SANTA FE, N.M.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The tension between doctors in New Mexico and the state government appears to be easing after an April 15 meeting with Katie Falls, the state's Secretary of Human Services.
In recent weeks doctors’ anger had erupted. Psychiatrists had reviewed documents showing that the state's Behavioral Health Collaborative had allegedly developed strategies that would violate patients' ability to choose their own psychiatric physicians, if adopted by the Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services administers New Mexico Medicaid.
Doctors from New Mexico Psychiatric Services, the state’s largest private psychiatric physician group, said they felt their concerns were "taken seriously" and were adequately addressed during the meeting. Their alarm had ignited in response to wording in a draft policy document they feared would relegate patients to community mental health centers - which are run by non-physicians. As their objections became public, more doctors around the state had begun to speak out.
The state's psychiatric medicine association verified that community mental health centers have struggled to retain psychiatric medicine physicians. Frustrated by the centers’ policies, doctors often leave weeks or months after being hired.
Many veteran doctors who have worked for community mental health centers around the state testified that they routinely infringe upon doctors' independent judgments regarding what's best for patients. An example is requiring patients to utilize multiple therapeutic services before seeing a psychiatrist. Such actions allegedly generate statistics to qualify for more state funding and can amount to millions of dollars annually.
Last week Katie Falls, the New Mexico Department of Health Services' Secretary and several members of her staff met with a contingent of physicians to address their concerns. The wording of the document, a proposal to re-organize the way the state administers its behavioral health for Medicaid patients, was clarified. Doctors reported they felt Ms. Falls was "direct, honest and equally concerned" about the proposals made by the behavioral health collaborative -- which falls under her purview – and that she "held a clearer understanding" of the proposed policies.
Dr. Babak Mirin, president of New Mexico Psychiatric Services, said the meeting was valuable. "Secretary Falls made it very clear that any further Medicaid cuts would include community mental health centers," he said. “For private psychiatrists - and many other doctors - practicing in rural areas of New Mexico, further cuts could force practices out of business. Medicaid is more than forty percent of our practice revenues.”
Dr. David Durham, a private psychiatric physician in Southeast New Mexico, agreed the state leaders were forthright in their meeting. "The Secretary now understands the full impact of the situation. She was clearly concerned about the adverse impact community mental health centers have had on retaining psychiatrists in under-served areas."
According to Dr. Mirin, "She supported us completely, had already started addressing the delays we've had in obtaining a community mental health license and felt confident we would have it in short order. I was very grateful for her time, and her concern. Therapeutically, it was what we needed."
Cultural Communications on behalf of Psychiatric Medical Society of New Mexico
Marie Carella, 212-505-1253
KEYWORDS: United States North America New Mexico
INDUSTRY KEYWORDS: Practice Management Health Public Policy/Government Healthcare Reform Mental Health Other Government Other Health Other Policy Issues Public Policy State/Local General Health