Teambuilders counseling situation dire

By Emily Crowe

CNJ STAFF WRITER

ecrowe@cnjonline.com

The situation is dire for Teambuilders Counseling Services, Inc., whose good cause exception to receive state money during an investigation was denied earlier this week.

Teambuilders is among 15 behavioral health providers facing a criminal investigation after a statewide audit found overbilling and potential fraud at these providers’ facilities.

According to Dr. Lorraine Freedle, chief clinical officer for Teambuilders, the New Mexico Health and Human Services Department has cut off all money for services as a result of the findings.

The company’s 21 offices throughout the state are currently running on reserve money. Freedle said the company is owed close to $3 million from HSD.

The attorney general’s office expects that its preliminary evaluations of audit data and its own data-collection efforts are likely to take months, said Phil Sisneros, director of communications.

“This investigation will be huge,” he said earlier this week. “Our resources are severely strained, and we may have to seek out alternative resources.”

Teambuilders had previously requested an exception from HSD to continue receiving funding to provide services during the state’s investigation, but HSD determined that the company did not meet federal criteria for good cause, said Freedle.

“They have decided to punish the providers involved prior to the results of the investigation,” she said. “We believe if given the opportunity to clarify these interesting findings, that this can all be peaceably resolved.”

HSD has made a preliminary arrangement with five Arizona-based behavioral health providers to take over services for HSD programs in New Mexico.

“The Arizona companies don’t have the credentials in New Mexico to do what we do,” Freedle said. “There is no way they would be poised to do the volume of work that we do with the integrity, the community relations and the client relations that we have.”

In fiscal year 2013, Teambuilders served 849 children and adults from Curry County, 253 from Roosevelt County and 147 people from Quay County.

According to Freedle, there has been no formal decision regarding if or when Teambuilders offices in Clovis and Portales will close.

“We are open and there are no plans today to close, but we are running out of funds and the situation is dire,” she said. “Without intervention, we will close or be taken over.”