Arizona Takes Action Against Predatory Treatment Centers That Prey On Indigenous Communities

On Tuesday, May 16, the governor of Arizona announced that the state would take action against fake rehabilitation centers targeting indigenous communities throughout the western Rocky Mountains, including the Navajo.

Arizona Attorney General Chris Mays said he believes Arizona owes the tribal state an apology.

“This is tragic. What happened is tragic and outrageous. And I want to speak for myself as Attorney General of this state. Arizona owes the Tribal State an apology.” I believe, I think so,” Mays said in his speech. press conference on Tuesday.

In addition to defrauding the state of millions of dollars in Medicaid payments, the centers have infiltrated tribal lands to lure vulnerable people into these centers, sometimes using drugs and alcohol, where They often get no treatment and are stranded far from home.

Locals have been sounding the alarm about the incident for months, and on May 5, a victim advocacy group held a walk in downtown Phoenix calling for action.
Maeve Conran spoke with KSUT Tribal Radio’s Crystal Ashike and KSJD’s Chris Clements who report on the issue.

Maeve Conran: Crystal, let’s start with you. When and how did you first become aware of this issue?

crystal asike: I’m part of the Navajo tribe, and I just couldn’t believe it. I’m on social media, and when Carol Willet saw this post, she said, “There are people in the Navajo Nation. We had to call the police.” Told. Story. I grew up in the Navajo Nation and knew about the Navajo Nation, so it was incredible, but I finally realized it when I was able to get a solid source about it. It was the Navajo Nation. National Police, there was a post from them last year. I was like, “Wow, this is serious.”

Conran: Well, you spoke with Roland Dash, Sergeant Dash of the Navajo Police Department, and like you said, they put out an alert on their Facebook feed to warn people about these vans showing up in the community. It was said that

(Audio from Dash, audio from calling Ashike in December: “…Now these guys are here and it’s a constant thing to take these people down. I’m the FBI on this matter. I reached out to and I said, ‘Please get in touch with your boss to see what’s going on. I gave them the information. I have contacted CI, a criminal investigator here in Tsubasa City.”)

Conran: Well, Chris (Clements), you’ve been reporting on this recently, so I’d like to bring you here now. There was a big day of action on May 5th with a mass rally in Phoenix, Arizona. How did you become involved in this report and who did you speak to?

Clements: I found out about this problem through a number of Facebook groups and ended up joining one called Predatory Treatment Centers. I believe this group was started by a victim advocate named Leva Stewart and her friend Colleen (Chatter). Both have relatives who have gone missing as a result of this process.

And they talked about people being taken all over our area, Towaock, Colorado, the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, and Kayenta, Arizona, and Red Mesa.

(Stewart’s voice: “Now we know it’s in Montana or South Dakota. You know, we caught one from Nevada, California, and they brought them up here in the canyon. And finally counting, we had over 3,000 homes that we were able to research.”)

Conran: What is regulation or what is the regulatory framework that facilitates this?

Clements: According to Reba, these rehab facilities, treatment centers and humble living homes began to proliferate in the years of the pandemic. Because at that point, there was a policy of (if) if you wanted to start a house like this. All this, she says, is that you can just call her AHCCCS, the Medicaid program in Arizona, and get licensed that way. I think there are a lot of houses that are operating without a permit.

That’s one way they started, and generally speaking, there was a big blind spot in public health as a result of lockdowns and quarantines during the pandemic, and I think that was sort of the beginning. And now, according to Reba, these homes generate income from several different sources. One of them he is registered as Indian healthcare provider under AHCCCS and own payment (stream) I believe.

And the other is to take people to a nearby Intensive Outpatient Center (IOP) for classes and in return receive money as a kind of rebate from the outpatient center itself. According to Reva, the process is very complicated and I don’t think the FBI or anyone involved knows exactly how it works yet.

Conran: Reba hosted the rally I said took place in Phoenix on May 5th, but she also testified in the Arizona legislature, has there been any change there?

Clements: Yes those IOP (intensive outpatient care program) rebates I mentioned are not so easy to get now as AHCCCS have changed their policy and basically said they will continue to rebate . People who are brought to IOP under AHCCCS’s American Indian Health Program pay less than they used to. And now that that change has been made, Reba said thousands of Indigenous people in the Phoenix area will be homeless and basically be kicked out of their homes because they no longer bring in the same amount of money they used to. Told me he was predicting. it was.

(Sounds from Stewart: “Many homes will be closed and evicted, leaving more relatives unable to evacuate.”)

On May 11, Navajo Police Department Deputy Chief Ron Silversmith posted two videos on the police department’s Facebook page showing various predatory rehabs picking up people on and off the Navajo Nation property. Warned the Navajo Nation community about the Center. The first video was in Navajo, followed by an English video. In the video, Mr. Silversmith explained how many people are being shunned from the Navajo, either voluntarily with the promise of treatment, or through coerced alcohol and diets.

(Conran and Ashike’s interview continues.)

Conran: Now, Crystal, you’ve heard how indigenous communities across the West are being targeted by these looting centers, but as we heard, you yourself are from the Navajo tribe. For those unfamiliar with the Navajo, what makes them so vulnerable to these looting centers and looting?

Ashike: If you go back to the Navajo, you’ll see lots of people walking everywhere, everywhere. We don’t have a good transportation system that runs at fixed times every 15 minutes. If you travel to the Navajo, you are bound to see elders, young women, young men, people walking the streets with outstretched hands. Basically predatory treatment centers are taking advantage of it. they know it they know where to go.

This article was shared with KSUT through Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, including KSUT.

Copyright 2023 Aspen Public Radio.

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