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Authorities warn of fraud targeting Native Americans in Montana

Posted at 10:15 AM, Jul 25, 2023

BROWNING — There are numerous cases of Indigenous people being reported missing in Arizona in a Medicaid fraud scandal.

Several behavioral health companies are allegedly scamming the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System by recruiting Native Americans with Medicaid from various tribes across the nation including the Blackfeet and Crow reservations in Montana.

Many facilities were accused of billing AHCCCS, the Arizona Office of Public Assistance dealing with Medicaid for services that were misrepresented, and untrue.

According to Scripps News in Phoenix, one company had been charging the state $1,000,000 dollars for care that did not exist.

Josh Racine, a Blackfeet tribal member was one of those who made the decision to take their treatment to Arizona.

According to him and his family, he was recruited by Sunrise Native Recovery, a treatment program in Arizona accused of fraudulent behavior.

Josh said, “Well, there was quite a few people going there, so I just took it as a trip to Arizona at first, you know, and it ended up being three months of misery. I spent two months on the streets in Arizona before I finally made it home.”

Josh explained that while at the facility, he had been moved to several sober living houses before eventually being kicked out and left to live on the streets.

Through the efforts of his family, Josh was eventually found and brought home.

“If it wouldn’t have been for my family. I'd still be stuck down there. That’s why you feel sorry for the ones that don't have the means to get home.”

Many victims and their families say that they were recruited on the reservation through the Blackfeet Tribe, tribal recovery centers, and at events like North American Indian Days.

Others like Josh who made the decision to receive care in Arizona didn’t have the same ending as Josh.

Alexcya Dusty Bowl along with her husband also went to Arizona for treatment. While at a separate center, Alexcya’s husband had an accident and was put in the hospital.

According to her mother Rachel Butterfly, she wasn’t allowed to see him without being kicked out of the program at Sunrise. With easier access to substances like Fentynal in Arizona, Alexcya had eventually restarted her lifestyle abusing substances.

She has since cut contact with the family and refuses to come home.

Her mother says, “I feel that they failed us. I feel that they failed my daughter. I can’t even look at my phone anymore because I’m worried that I’m going to get a call that she is dead. I blame them for getting her hooked on the drugs.”

Sunrise Native Recovery has said that no fraud has been committed, and accusations towards their organization are false.

They are working to get former patients from Montana that were successful in their treatment plans in touch with MTN News for further development of the story.

As of now, the Blackfeet Tribe say that they had no communication with recovery centers like Sunrise, and are expected to release a Public Health State of Emergency over the issue.

The Blackfeet Tribe is also working to help families by bringing tribal members home from Arizona, so far successfully bringing more then 10 back.

Autumn Nelson, another Blackfeet Tribal member who went to Arizona for treatment, says that the programs in question are “taking advantage of the native people. I do believe there's people out there fraudulent that are looking at us as these as Native Americans, as human beings, but as a profit for money in their pocket but as native people, we are very special. We have that history, we have that resiliency that we can overcome anything.”