On or about April 11, 2013, the Massachusetts Board of Psychologists entered into a settlement agreement with Paula M. Morrissette, resolving allegations that she identified herself as a psychologist on a clinical supervision document submitted to the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health Professionals by an individual applying for licensure. A review by the Board found that Morrissette had never been issued a valid psychologist license by Board. Under the terms of the agreement, Morrissette agreed to pay a $500 fine.
August 7, 2013
On May 29, 2013, the Maine Board of Examiners of Psychologists issued a formal reprimand to psychologist Carole Orem-Hough. Orem-Hough agreed as well to surrender her license for at least one year. This action was the result of a complaint filed by a former patient of Orem-Hough, who reported that the psychologist disclosed that she was double billing the patient’s insurance and was double billing all of her patients who were insured by either Aetna or Harvard Pilgrim as they did not reimburse her what she felt she should be reimbursed.
January 11, 2013
On June 21, 2012, the Pennsylvania Board of Psychology reprimanded psychologist Ronald S. Gruen, of Cherry Hill, NJ, because he failed to safeguard the confidentiality of information about an individual that was obtained in the course of practice and by releasing and revealing confidential information about a client without full disclosure and consent.
Gruen was also ordered to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $1,000 as well as the costs of investigation in the amount of $872.97, and ordered to complete 10 contact hours of remedial education in ethics/confidentiality.
On June 11, 2012, the California Board of Psychology placed Michele M. Bieraugel on five years probation with terms and conditions.
Bieraugel is described in the Board document as having “a long history of substance abuse, starting…at approximately the age of 12.”
Further, in adulthood, she attended rehabilitation on several occasions between 1998 and approximately 2010 and “continued a pattern of alternately relapsing and then rejoining her recovery group.”
On or about June 15, 2010, after consuming approximately one and half bottles of wine (and also having taken the tranquilizer Valium and the antidepressant Effexor), she crashed her car into the rear of another vehicle at the bottom of a freeway offramp. She was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and other counts.
She pleaded guilty on August 17, 2010 to driving a vehicle with 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in her blood. She was placed on five years probation, fined $1,865 and had her driving privileges suspended for six months.
Hollywood loves stories about psychiatrists and patients drawn into love matches during their shared time together — much of it involving a couch. But the folks at the Colorado Springs Police Department aren’t nearly as charmed by the concept. Just ask Dr. Janice Husted, who’s been arrested for allegedly getting horizontal with a client from the military.
The attraction between the man and Husted, whose LinkedIn profile lists her as a clinical psychologist at the U.S. D
epartment of Defense, appears to have been a slow burn. According to the CSPD, the man was assigned to receive counseling related to his combat deployments in the summer of 2010.
The man says his relationship with Husted became considerably more hands-on in August 2011 and continued through October or November of that year.
Husted allegedly warned the man not to tell anyone else that they were, um, dating. When he complained about having to keep this secret, she’s said to have told him they could go public in a mere two years — and when that response didn’t satisfy him, she precipitated a break-up.
This decision didn’t get Husted off the hook. After a CSPD investigation, Husted was busted on New Year’s Eve. The charge against her — sexual assault on a client by a psychotherapist — is a class-four felony.
The cops are still collecting information on the case. Anyone with more to share should phone the department at 719-444-7000 or Pikes Peak Area Crime Stoppers, Inc. at 719-634-STOP (7867).
January 3, 2013
On October 8, 2012, the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners reprimanded David T. Bice, Ph.D. for unprofessional conduct; failure to avoid harm; failure to obtain informed consent and exceeding the boundaries of competence with regard to a teenage female patient.
According to the Board’s document, Bice engaged in “comforting touch” with the patient, which made her uncomfortable to the extent that “she will never see a male counselor again.” Bice additionally failed to make entries in the patient’s chart when he touched her, the rationale for touching, how the patient reacted, etc.; failed to get the patient’s full informed consent, relative to the use of touch in that the did not address the use of touch with the patient nor did he address it in his informed consent documents or the patient’s chart notes; exceeding the boundaries of competence by engaging in touch with the patient “without first establishing a strong therapeutic alliance and [failing] to monitor [the patient’s] reactions…and to make a corresponding chart note.”
In addition to the reprimand, Bice must successfully complete coursework in the areas of informed consent, patient charting and the use of touch during therapy and is also required to practice for a minimum of one year under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, among other things.
December 4, 2012
On July 20, 2012, psychologist Charlotte Higgins-Lee surrendered her license to practice to the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners.
According to the Board’s document, in late 2010, Higgins-Lee received a referral to conducted a psychological evaluation of a father and his nine-year-old daughter and to testify in a January 2011 hearing concerning custody and parenting time. Though the custody matter concerned the father, daughter and father’s ex-spouse (the daughter’s mother), Higgins-Lee did not interview the mother (though she interviewed the father, daughter and others). Nonetheless, she concluded that the father should have sole custody and that “more information should be obtained on the mother’s alcohol use/abuse and violence,” among other statements critical of the mother, whom she had never met or interviewed.
The Board proposed a reprimand, civil fine of $7,500 and requirement to practice under supervision for a minimum of six months. However, Higgins-Lee later agreed to a new stipulated agreement to surrender her license to the Board.
October 29, 2012
SANTA CRUZ — A civil lawsuit has been filed against a Capitola psychologist who is facing criminal charges of sexual abuse against a child.
Dr. John William Visher was arrested last month at his La Selva Beach home after Capitola police investigated allegations that he committed lewd acts against an 8-year-old girl. The girl had been his patient and detectives believe the incidents occurred at Visher’s former Bay Avenue office in 2009.
Last week, the girl’s family filed a personal injury suit against Visher in the civil divisions of Santa Cruz County Court. It charges him with sexual harassment, professional negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks unspecified damages.
Visher pleaded not guilty on Oct. 9 to five felony charges that include lewd acts upon a child, sending obscene material and possession of material depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct. He is due back in court Nov. 14.
The family is being represented in their civil suit by attorney and psychologist Joseph C. George.Capitola police detective Sarah Ryan said earlier this month that the alleged acts against the girl were first reported in January but the investigation was complicated by doctor-patient privilege issues.
Ryan said her continued investigation has uncovered complaints about abuse of two boys who were ages 6 and 10 at the time. Ryan has re-interviewed the boys and her investigation into those incidents is ongoing.
“While Ms. Doe is very sad that her daughter was abused by the defendant after two minor patients had previously been harmed by Dr. Bill, she is also extremely grateful to law enforcement officials who investigated this case against a trusted, child psychologist who has treated Santa Cruz area kids for 30 years,” George said.
Visher’s license to practice psychology was suspended by the California Board of Psychology on Sept. 24 after his arrest on those charges. He was first licensed to practice psychology in the state in August 1982 and has no prior administrative citations or disciplinary actions on record with the agency.He has posted bail and is no longer in custody.
Capitola police urge anyone with more information to contact the department at 475-4242 and ask to speak with a detective.
October 17, 2012
Vanja Abreu, former program director at the mental health care company American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), was sentenced Thursday to 108 months in prison for participating in the $205 million Medicare fraud scheme, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Abreu, 49, of Pembroke Pines, worked at ATC centers in Boca Raton and Miami. In addition to her prison term, U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz sentenced Abreu to three years of supervised release following her prison term and ordered her to pay $72.7 million in restitution, jointly and severally with co-defendants.
On June 1, after a seven-week trial, a federal jury in the Southern District of Florida found Abreu, who holds a doctorate degree, guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
ATC and 20 individuals, including the ATC owners, have all previously pled guilty or have been convicted at trial.
The press release gave this outline of the case:
Evidence at trial demonstrated that Abreu and her co-conspirators caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through ATC, a Florida corporation headquartered in Miami that operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), intensive treatments for severe mental illness, in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando.
Evidence at trial revealed that ATC secured patients by paying kickbacks to assisted living facility owners and halfway house owners who would then steer patients to ATC. These patients attended ATC, where they were ineligible for the treatment ATC billed to Medicare and where they did not receive the treatment that was billed. After Medicare paid the claims, some of the co-conspirators then laundered the Medicare money in order to create cash to pay the patient kickbacks.
Evidence at trial revealed that Abreu was a program director at ATC’s Boca Raton center from September 2005 to November 2005. In November 2005, Abreu moved to ATC’s Miami center, where she was the program director until February 2009, at which point she was promoted to corporate leadership and oversaw operations at all ATC centers until April 2010.
Evidence at trial revealed that program directors, including Abreu, helped doctors at ATC sign patient files without reading the files or seeing the patients. Evidence further revealed that Abreu and others would assist the owners of ATC in fabricating doctor notes, therapist notes and other documents to make it falsely appear in ATC’s patient files that patients were qualified for this highly specialized treatment and that the patients were receiving the intensive, individualized treatment PHP is supposed to be.
Included in these false and fraudulent submissions to Medicare were claims for patients who were in the late stages of diseases causing permanent cognitive memory loss and patients who had substance abuse issues and were living in halfway houses. These patients were ineligible for PHP treatment, and because they were forced by their assisted living facility owners and halfway house owners to attend ATC, they were not receiving treatment for the diseases they actually had.
Abreu was charged in an indictment returned on Feb. 8, 2011.
ATC executives Lawrence Duran, Marianella Valera, Judith Negron and Margarita Acevedo were sentenced to 50 years, 35 years, 35 years and 91 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the fraud scheme. The 50- and 35-year sentences represent the longest sentences for health care fraud ordered to date. Acevedo, who was one of the first defendants to plead guilty and has been cooperating with the government since November 2010, testified at the doctors’ trial.
ATC and its management company, Medlink Professional Management Group, pleaded guilty in May 2011 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. ATC also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks. On Sept. 16, 2011, the two corporations were sentenced to five years of probation per count and ordered to pay restitution of $87 million. Both corporations have been defunct since their owners were arrested in October 2010.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jennifer L. Saulino, Robert A. Zink and James V. Hayes of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
A former western Nebraska therapist has pleaded no contest to one count of Medicaid fraud in Dawes County District Court.
Jennie Miller, formerly of Chadron, pleaded no contest Thursday to the charge of fraudulently obtaining payments on behalf of a Medicaid recipient.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says Miller claimed more than $15,000 in Medicaid payments for services she did not provide.
The plea stems from an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud and Patient Abuse Unit. The investigation showed Miller received $15,629 for mental health services she claimed to have provided in 2009 in Chadron.
However, investigators found she was jailed in Wyoming on unrelated charges at the time she claimed to have provided those services.
Miller faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Her sentencing is set for Nov. 27.