Mental Health Center Settles Whistleblower Case for $4M

Whistleblower lawsuit reveals unqualified and unsupervised South Bay employees allegedly provided mental health treatment in violation of Mass. False Claims Act.

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Attorney General announced Thursday that mental health services provider South Bay Mental Health Center, Inc., along with its parent companies Community Intervention Services, Inc. and Community Intervention Services Holdings, Inc., have agreed to pay $4 million to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to settle allegations that South Bay violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act by using unqualified, unsupervised mental health workers as well as unqualified supervisors to treat its patients throughout the state and by fraudulently billing MassHealth for those services.

Whistleblower Christine Martino-Fleming, a former Job Coach and later Coordinator of Staff Development and Training for South Bay, made several attempts to alert her superiors to the problem of unlicensed, unsupervised staff providing mental health services to Medicaid patients, but nothing was done. Ultimately, she filed a lawsuit to alert the government and put a stop to South Bay’s fraudulent practices. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts intervened in her lawsuit earlier this year.

“When greedy companies put profits over patient care, they’re not just stealing from Medicaid, they’re stealing from all of us,” explained Charles Siegel, a partner at Waters & Kraus, who represents Ms. Martino-Fleming. “Because of Christine’s bravery and persistence, the people of Massachusetts who need mental health care will now receive the qualified and competent care they deserve.”

The settlement agreement requires South Bay to implement an Internal Compliance Program to ensure compliance with all licensure, supervision, billing, and quality of care requirements for mental health center staff, and to contract with an independent compliance reviewer to conduct yearly on-site audits that will be reported to the Attorney General’s Office for a period of five years. Pursuant to the whistleblower provisions of the Massachusetts False Claims Act, Ms. Martino-Fleming will receive $700,000 as her share of the proceeds of the settlement.

The pending case against H.I.G. Capital LLC, HIG Growth Partners, LLC, South Bay, CIS, CISH, Peter J. Scanlon and Kevin Sheehan for violations of the Federal False Claims Act, filed by Ms. Martino-Fleming’s lawyers on behalf of the United States government, remains ongoing. Likewise, Ms. Martino-Fleming and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts continue to litigate against H.I.G. Capital LLC, HIG Growth Partners, LLC, Peter J. Scanlon and Kevin Sheehan for violations of the Massachusetts False Claims Act.

Whistleblower Christine Martino-Fleming is represented by co-counsel Jeffrey A. Newman of Jeffrey Newman Law in Boston, Mass. and Charles Siegel and Caitlyn Silhan of Waters & Kraus of Dallas, Texas.

About Waters & Kraus, LLP

Waters & Kraus is a national plaintiffs’ firm with lawyers litigating complex civil matters as well as practicing qui tam whistleblower litigation and False Claims Act litigation nationwide. Based in Dallas, Texas, the firm has offices in Los Angeles, California and by appointment in Illinois. Our attorneys represent whistleblowers who expose fraud and false claims against the government in a variety of matters including government contractor fraud and procurement fraud, healthcare fraud, assisted living fraud, SEC fraud, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations. Contact us at 800.226.9880 to learn more about our practice and our qui tam attorneys.

Waters Kraus & Paul is the West Coast practice Waters & Kraus, LLP, a national plaintiffs’ law firm.

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