NY Seeks to Close Troubled Addiction Clinic After I-Team Report

More than six months after a joint investigation by the I-Team and ProPublica revealed serious complaints made by recovering addicts and former drug counseling employees, New York is moving to close a Brooklyn addiction clinic.

The clinic, New York Service Network, has been repeatedly cited for improper scheduling and treatment of recovering addicts. Last year, clients and former counselors came forward alleging patients were scheduled for more treatment sessions than they really needed.

“The owner of the outpatient program, he needed to maintain the numbers because the numbers of the people attending the program were paramount to his ability to make the money," said Maxine Mathis, a former NYSN counselor who left after a dispute with clinic management.

According to a February 11 letter sent to NYSN Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lazar Feygin, the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has revoked the addiction clinic’s operating certificate, citing six “significant regulatory violations.”

Among them, regulators found NYSN “applied static treatment schedules” and “routinely scheduled patients for five day per week treatment which was determined prior to any admission assessment.”

The letter also cites a 2013 inspection that found “excessive services were being provided” and “the rights of patients were being routinely violated.”

Much of the revenue earned by NYSN comes from Medicaid reimbursements.  According to an analysis by ProPublica’s Jake Bernstein, in 2011 NYSN was the seventh-busiest non-methadone outpatient drug treatment clinic in New York City. 

Recovering addicts who requested their identities be concealed said they were scheduled for unreasonable and treatment schedules and that actually made it harder for them to get back on their feet. Some reported being kept on five-day-a-week counseling schedules even after they made significant progress battling addiction and even if they needed the daytime hours to work and apply for jobs.

“If I would have taken a job during the day, then I would have been discharged,” said one recovering addict.

Several NYSN patients also reported an unofficial arrangement in which their residences, low-rent buildings known as “sober homes,” would require proof of five-day-a-week attendance at NYSN counseling sessions. If such proof was not shown, the recovering addicts say they were threatened with eviction.

“If you went to any other program, you had to leave the house,” said a patient who has since left NYSN.

OASAS officials also found the relationship between NYSN and “uncertified residences” violated patient rights by sharing clinical information.

An attorney for NYSN declined to comment on the revocation letter.

According to OASAS, Feygin has appealed the license revocation. While the appeal is active, NYSN will be allowed to continue operating and collecting Medicaid reimbursements. 

In 2011 the New York Health Department forced NYSN to pay back more than $2.5 million in Medicaid overpayments. Feygin appealed that finding, claiming most of the improper bills were the result of clerical errors, but he lost.

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