Boston/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on September 18, 2023
Illegal Kickbacks in Sober Home Operations: The Dark Side of Substance Abuse RecoverySource: U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Earlier today, the United States Attorney's Office filed a complaint against Brookline-based Bournewood Health Systems and First Psychiatric Planners (FPP), accusing them of providing illegal kickbacks in the form of free sober housing to induce patients to utilize their Partial Hospital Program over alternative treatment options. The complaint alleges that these practices jeopardize patient health, financial stability, and the integrity of Medicare and Medicaid programs as stated in U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts.

According to the Justice Department, both Bournewood Health Systems and FPP violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the federal False Claims Act, Massachusetts Anti-Kickback Statute, and the Massachusetts False Claims Act. The government maintains that the accused have induced patients to attend their Partial Hospital Program by offering free sober housing, further enabling them to sustain and grow their patient census and increase reimbursements from insurers, including federal healthcare programs.

These unethical practices put the sobriety and recovery of vulnerable patients in jeopardy. The complaint states that Bournewood Health Systems and FPP knowingly referred patients to unsafe sober homes that threatened patients' progress in recovery. Patients had expressed concerns regarding sexual solicitation, harassment, drug overdoses, medication theft, bug infestations, and overcrowding, but the accused parties continued to prioritize their revenue over their duty to provide a safe and supportive recovery environment.

Acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Joshua S. Levy, addressed the gravity of the situation, stating: "This kickback scheme negatively impacted the Medicare and Medicaid programs financially, and more importantly, it jeopardized patients' health at a vulnerable time in their recovery according to U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts.

Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Roberto Coviello, emphasized the danger posed by kickbacks when they interfere with medical decision-making. He ensured that federal and state law enforcement partners remain committed to investigating allegations of improper arrangements that put patient safety at risk.

Acting United States Attorney Levy, HHS-OIG SAC Coviello, and Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell have collaborated on this complaint. The investigation that prompted these allegations was initiated under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act by a whistleblower.

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell expressed her determination to protect vulnerable populations within the state, saying, "Massachusetts is no place to take advantage of vulnerable populations, especially those suffering from substance use disorder." She reinforced the commitment of her office and the United States Attorney's Office to ensure that those seeking help have access to treatment and a safe path to recovery according to U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts.