Feds raid Houston mental facility in fraud probe

By Stephen Dean, Investigative Reporter, sdean@kprc.com
Published On: Apr 26 2012 11:48:37 AM CDT

April 26, 2012: Federal agents raid an outpatient mental facility that receives Medicare money to treat patients. Stephen Dean reports.

HOUSTON -

Frustrated and rattled mental patients were turned away as federal agents raided a southwest Houston mental facility, Local 2 Investigates reported Thursday.

Agents sealed off the parking lots and entered the Westbury Community Hospital Outpatient facility on Hornwood near Rookin around 6:30 a.m.  They carted away dozens of boxes of records in a box truck that was brought up to the entrance of the facility.

"I came into work and I'm just completely surprised at what is happening here," said an emotional Janette Tingle, the director of intake for the facility. 

She called the center the finest she's ever worked at in the field with no hint of wrongdoing.

The Westbury Outpatient Clinic collects federal Medicare money for the "day treatment" of schizophrenic patients who are taken home after their therapy and treatment, she said.

"Our documentation is perfect. There is no such thing as Medicare fraud here at all. So anyone saying or making such an accusation like that is ... it must be contrived because we're not anything like the other places in Houston," said Tingle.

The administrator of the facility, Colleen Paxton, said this sector of Medicare and health care has been ripe for fraud elsewhere, with numerous other facilities being raided and shut down, but she said everything at her facility is "by the book."

She said, "We maintain an ethical facility. We document everything. This is a doctor-driven program. We take very good care of our patients."

She said approximately 150 schizophrenic patients are seen by five doctors at the facility. Many attend group therapy, and she said the goal is to keep them from needing to be institutionalized elsewhere.

"I wouldn't work for a company if it were not ethical," said Paxton. "We remain above board."

Federal agents from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and Houston Police Major Offenders Division spent the morning questioning some employees and hauling away the boxes of records.   They had no comment outside the facility.

Earlier this year, a similar Houston mental facility was raided amid Medicare fraud allegations. In that case, the administrator was arrested and indicted on charges of a $116 million rip-off of the Medicare system.

In Thursday morning's raid of an unrelated company, administrator Paxton said she wasn't concerned. 

"I'm actually fine. I've offered them any records they want to see," she said.

But Tingle was more emotional, describing the company as a strong, Christian-oriented operation.  

"I think it's an insult to everything we've been working towards," she said of the raid. "We are the most thorough place in Houston.  We have gone out of our way to do everything that Medicare expects of us."

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