D.C. clinic accused of fraud in reimbursement bid

Corners were cut, fired staffer says

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Joyce Montes, assistant general counsel for the Providence Service, told The Times on Tuesday that she could not comment on the firing of Ms. Lancaster. In an email, she wrote: “We were not aware of Ms. Lancaster expressing any concerns about fraud until receipt of Ms. Lancaster’s October 11, 2011, letter to [Chief Operating Officer] Craig Norris. During the company’s investigation, Ms. Lancaster chose to withhold further information despite my requests for information related to her allegations of fraud. The investigation did not find evidence to support the claims that Ms. Lancaster made in her letter to Mr. Norris.”

Numerous red flags

Ms. Lancaster’s Oct. 11 letter also pointed to numerous “red flags,” such as high employee turnover, FPS being understaffed and two compliance directors resigning within six months of each other. “They both communicated to me that they were not risking their licensure by remaining employed by FPS,” she wrote.

Recently, Dr. Colleen Hawthorne, a psychiatrist and medical director at FPS, also resigned. Though Dr. Hawthorne declined to comment for this article, FPS staff who spoke to The Times on the condition that they not be identified said that she expressed similar concerns to them.

“All you’d have to do is visit to sense the looming fear that the place could be shut down at any time,” said one current employee who corroborated Ms. Lancaster’s claims, but who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.

Those claims include pressure not to document incidents such as physical injuries and inappropriate contact between patients, and back-dating treatment plans.

“You don’t know if you’re being told to do something that is wrong, but you know when it doesn’t feel right,” said a former FPS employee who also corroborated Ms. Lancaster’s complaints. “The place doesn’t seem to operate from a place that says ‘we care about the mentally ill.’ It just doesn’t have that vibe.”

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