July 26 First News: Federal court rules against state mental healthcare providers. (listen)

Eight of the state's 15 providers of mental health & substance abuse services in New Mexico whose funds were cut off after an audit revealed possible Medicaid fraud have been denied a re-start of payments. A federal court has ruled that they failed to meet the standards for financial relief. The state's Human Services Department ordered payment freezes back in late June when an audit by OptumHealth Inc., the umbrella organization overseeing state mental healthcare, indicated a possible $36 million in improper billing to Medicaid.  The matter is under investigation by the Attorney General’s office.

Meanwhile, an agreement has been reached among state officials that will allow state auditor Hector Balderas to see the Human Services Department's documents.  HSD had initially denied Balderas' request and defied a court order to comply, saying the handover could jeopardize the investigation. Balderas countered that it was his office's duty to review them.  The state auditor has now given assurances that he will keep the documents classified.

Anti-abortion activists have succeeded in acquiring some 27,000 signatures for putting an abortion restriction measure on Albuquerque's October 8th municipal election ballot. Today's Albuquerque Journal says the group's latest submission of signatures puts them at well more than double the number needed. The measure would ban abortion after 20 weeks, mirroring a new Texas law that does the same.  The activists says a Duke City law is needed, lest women from Texas now attempt to have the procedure performed here in New Mexico.

Santa Fe’s Spanish Market, one of our city’s summertime hallmarks, takes place this weekend.  This year is the 62nd annual edition of the event with hundreds of artists presenting their wares on the Plaza Saturday and Sunday. It’s the oldest and largest juried Spanish Market in the US and attracts over 70,000 visitors and collectors from around the world.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, City Councilor Patti Bushee and State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, together with city leaders in other  states, have signed a statement calling for action toward improved conservation of Colorado River waters. Several of the river’s tributaries flow through our state, providing over one million New Mexicans with drinking water. A recent US Bureau of Reclamation study projects future shortfalls of millions of acre-feet due to climate change and increased water demands.

At the peak of last night’s thunderstorm across Santa Fe, PNM reported that some 10,000 customers were without power for a time. The utility reports this morning that virtually all those affected are back online.

Weather for Santa Fe – partly sunny today with a high near 80 degrees and a 30% chance for scattered thundershowers.  By evening, a 60% chance for thunderstorms. Saturday sees a 50% chance for more precipitation with highs in the upper 70s.