The Blackfeet Nation has declared a public health state of emergency for what it is calling a humanitarian crisis in Arizona.
The declaration was made for all Blackfeet Tribal members affected by shuttered fraudulent behavioral health treatment facilities in Arizona. Tribal leaders unanimously approved the order after learning several tribal members may have been victimized in a massive Medicaid fraud scheme.
As MTN first reported last week, the scheme is sophisticated and targets tribal members, taking them from reservations to the Phoenix area with a promise of addiction recovery and free housing. In reality, many are ending up on the streets, back under the influence with no way to get home.
According to Arizona state officials, the scam works like this:
- Fraudulent sober living homes lured thousands of Native Americans to the state, where they were provided free housing but no treatment
- Those fake providers then allegedly billed for services not provided - up to $1,300 per person per day, collecting millions in Medicaid payments from the state
- Arizona is now shutting fraudulent homes down, leaving tribal members homeless and often under the influence of drugs or alcohol in an unfamiliar city
A grassroots effort in Phoenix called Stolen People, Stolen Benefits says it has rescued at least 40 people from the Blackfeet, Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations. The group estimates hundreds more from Montana are in Phoenix.
The declaration cited a May 16 consumer alert from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, warning tribal members across the country of a fraud scheme targeting Native American communities.
The Blackfeet Nation requests that any individuals returning home should immediately cancel their Arizona ACHHHS (Medicaid) benefits, change their residency back to Montana, and put a credit alert and freeze on the three credit reporting agencies. They also advise relatives to check on any family members who are in Arizona receiving treatment to make sure they are in a legitimate facility.
Stolen People, Stolen Benefits has a GoFundMe page to help support plane and bus tickets to get people home. The group also has an Amazon Wish List under Reva J Stewart for those wanting to provide water and hygiene kits to tribal members on the street, who are in 100+ degree temperatures in Phoenix.