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Program seeks limited waiver of sovereign immunity


The Navajo Nation government is looking to approve a limited waiver of sovereign immunity in the state of New Mexico Medical Assistance Division Provider Participation Agreement between the Navajo Nation Division of Behavioral and Mental Health Services and the state.

This agreement will allow the Division of Behavioral and Mental Health Services to seek reimbursements from the state for the services DBMHS provides.

DBMHS is a program within the Navajo Department of Health that provides treatment, prevention and aftercare for alcoholism and substance abuse.

For this program to provide services, bill patients, and receive Medicaid reimbursement payments, the DBMHS must enter a Provider Participation Agreement with the state of New Mexico.

Currently DBMHS operates treatment centers in Chinle, Fort Defiance, Sanders, Red Mesa, Shiprock and Gallup.

Dr. Michelle Brandser, health services administrator with DBMHS, said the division is seeking a limited waiver of sovereign immunity to help with contracting and partnership developments.

“Right now, currently, our reimbursement is mainly with outpatient treatment centers but we’re looking more so even for residential treatment services,” Brandser said.

“What we have been working towards the past two to three years is updating our Medicaid provider enrollment applications and so that is, again, one of the reasons why we’re reaching out through this process with the limited waiver of sovereign immunity,” Brandser said.

She also said that they want the applications, or provider agreements, signed and approved by the Navajo Nation so they can start billing for services.

Michelle Begay-Nakai, senior attorney for the Navajo Department of Justice, said the agreement states that the provider agreement will be governed by the laws of the state. Due to this, DBMHS is agreeing to be subject to state law.

Unfortunately, the agreements cannot be amended because the state uses one agreement for all health providers.

The Budget and Finance Committee approved the legislation. It now moves onto the Naabik’íyáti Committee.

If approved, it moves on the Navajo Nation Council where it will either be approved or denied.

About The Author

Hannah John

Hannah John is from Coyote Canyon, N.M., and currently based out of Gallup as a reporter for the Navajo Times. She is Bit’ah’nii (Within His Cover), born for Honágháahnii (One Who Walks Around), maternal grandfather is Tábaahí (Water Edge) and paternal grandfather is Tódich’ii’nii (Bitter Water). She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s in communications and a minor in Native American studies. She recently worked with the Daily Lobo and the Rio Grande Sun.


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