Navajo Nation AG finds hundreds affected by Arizona sober home Medicaid scams News
Navajo Nation, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Navajo Nation AG finds hundreds affected by Arizona sober home Medicaid scams

Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch announced in a press conference and confirmed in a Monday interview with ABC 15 Arizona that Navajo law enforcement have found 271 Native Americans in Phoenix, Arizona—mostly of the Navajo Nation—who lost housing due to the closure of sober living homes found to have defrauded Medicaid. The sober living homes recently released patients without housing or appropriate treatment.

In Branch’s statement, she raised concerns about the overall health and safety of those affected, saying:

I don’t think people were expecting the volume that they’ve received in terms of health requests. There have been instances where motels have all filled up and they’ve needed to get new motels. And the longevity of people staying there, I spoke to someone who’d been there for weeks. They’re getting snacks for food.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs announced the crackdown by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona’s Medicaid system, on May 16. Under the crackdown, the state took action against over 100 providers of behavioral health services, both residential and out-patient. Hobbs went on to call the situation a “large scale humanitarian crisis that disproportionately affects Arizona’s tribal communities.” In response, the Navajo Nation launched Operation Rainbow Bridge on May 19 to assist Native Americans affected by the crisis.

AHCCCS announced the suspension of payments to 219 behavioral healthcare providers, both residential and outpatient.

In a recent podcast episode of Native America Calling, Branch reflected on the extended timeline of the fraud, saying:

[W]e have a significant issue of MMIR, missing and murdered [Indigenous] relatives here at Navajo Nation and one of the things that I’ve been looking at, in response to this issue, is going back and looking at the missing and murdered indigenous girls reports that were just issued a few years ago…And what we’ve discovered in the course of our field work, our investigations here, is that we’re finding some of these missing relatives in these homes.

Operation Rainbow Bridge reports the number of affected Native Americans throughout the entire state of Arizona may be between 5,000 to 7,000, with the majority being Navajo.

The latest report, released Sunday by the 211 Hotline for those needing assistance, states that the helpline received 3,561 calls and provided services to 1,331 individuals. These services included providing lodging and transportation, sending law enforcement out to assist callers and assistance in finding alternate rehabilitative services.