SANTA FE, N.M.—A Santa Fe father appealed to lawmakers on Tuesday for help in obtaining behavioral health services that he said have been disrupted because the state froze Medicaid payments to mental health providers.

Hashem Faidi, a state Department of Transportation engineer, told a legislative panel that his two autistic sons no longer receive behavioral management services after school and during holidays.

"Hopefully with your help, we can get back these services. It's really essential for kids," Faidi said.

TeamBuilders Counseling Services provided that help to his sons until August. However, the company was among 15 nonprofit providers that were suspended by the state in late June from receiving Medicaid reimbursements because of allegations of fraud, mismanagement and billing problems. The attorney general's office is investigating the allegations. Two companies have agreed to repay the state $4.2 million for overbillings and their Medicaid reimbursements will be restored.

The Human Services Department contracted with Arizona companies to replace some of the New Mexico providers. Agave Health Inc. took over for TeamBuilders in Santa Fe and several other communities.

Agave CEO Heath Kilgore said in a telephone interview that he couldn't address the Santa Fe man's case, but the company hasn't eliminated programs previously provided by TeamBuilders.

"The services have continued and we're trying to build up employment to meet the needs of clients and schools," Kilgore said.

Faidi praised TeamBuilders, and said in an interview after the hearing that his teenage sons are more agitated and hyperactive without the services they previously received. He said he continues to negotiate with Agave to get more help for his children.

"TeamBuilders was like a second home for them," Faidi told reporters.

Since the state suspended the providers, lawmakers repeatedly have expressed concerns about a disruption of mental health and substance abuse services for needy New Mexicans.

"We've created an incredible mess here," said Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, an Albuquerque Democrat and subcommittee member.

However, the department contends that the Arizona companies have hired most of the staff who worked for the New Mexico providers and there's been no reduction in services based on the tracking of Medicaid claims.

Human Services spokesman Matt Kennicott said in an interview the department "remains very confident that consumers are still receiving the behavioral health services they need."

Two former therapists in Valenica County told lawmakers they were laid off last month by Valle del Sol, one of the Arizona companies hired by the state.

Ed Church, who worked in Los Lunas for the company, said clients potentially will suffer because three therapists and five support staff had lost their jobs.

"From my standpoint, it's a crisis and what has been done is criminal," Church said.

Valle del Sol CEO Kurt Sheppard said the layoffs brought staffing into line with what was needed to serve clients in several communities, including Raton, Espanola, Bernalillo and Los Lunas. He said the company has 120 employees in New Mexico, and about 400 clients receiving individual therapy and behavioral management services.

"We want to emphasize that we've worked to provide meaningful, appropriate services to every person showing up and seeking services. We have not turned away anyone who is enrolled with a health plan for which we have a contract," Sheppard said in a statement.

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