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Montana tribal members say they were caught up in massive Arizona fraud

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Posted at 6:27 AM, Jul 25, 2023

BROWNING — There are numerous cases of Indigenous people being reported missing in Arizona in a massive 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 have been accused of billing the Arizona Office of Public Assistance dealing with Medicaid for services that were misrepresented, and in some cases untrue.

According to a report by Scripps News in Phoenix, there are potentially thousands of victims in a scheme that the governor of Arizona said may have "defrauded the state medical program out of 100's of millions of dollars."

"I do believe there's people out there, fraudulent, that aren't looking at us as Native Americans, as human beings, but as a profit for money in their pocket."
Autumn Nelson

Josh Racine, a Blackfeet tribal member was one of those who made the decision to get 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.

“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," Racine said. "I spent two months on the streets in Arizona before I finally made it home.”

Racine said that while at the facility he was moved to several sober living houses before eventually being kicked out and left to live on the streets.

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

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

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

RELATED: Montana authorities warn of massive Medicaid fraud targeting Native Americans

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 Racine who made the decision to receive care in Arizona didn’t have the same ending.

Alexcya Dusty Bowl along with her husband also went to Arizona for treatment. While at a separate center, Dusty Bowl'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, Dusty Bowl eventually restarted her lifestyle of abusing substances.

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

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Rachel Butterfly said her daughter went to Arizona for treatment and fell back into substance abuse.

“I feel that they failed us," her mother said. "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 than 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."

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Autumn Nelson, a Blackfeet Tribal member who went to Arizona for treatment, says that the programs are “taking advantage of the Native people."

"I do believe there's people out there, fraudulent, that aren't looking at us as Native Americans, as human beings, but as a profit for money in their pocket," she said. "But as Native people, we are very special. We have that history, we have that resiliency that we can overcome anything.”