Photo caption:Lehigh Valley Community Mental Health Centers Inc. at 226 Northampton St., Easton, is seen July 20, 2015. It is one of 10 mental health clinics sued July 20, 2015, by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, along with owner Melissa Chlebowski and Melchor Martinez. Martinez is alleged to have run the Medicare- and Medicaid-funded clinics in Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina, despite a 2000 ruling excluding him from participating in these and any federally funded health care programs.
Director Allison E. Frantz said the department received complaints about the delivery of care at Lehigh Valley Community Mental Health Centers Inc., now the target of a federal whistleblower lawsuit. The department forwarded the complaints, prompting an investigation, she said.
"The Northampton County DHS has taken steps to ensure the county's citizens' behavioral health treatment would not be jeopardized: the provider network was enhanced to include additional bi-cultural, bilingual treatment professionals and regular and frequent on-site clinical reviews, including additional billing audits," Frantz wrote in an email Tuesday.
After the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced the lawsuit Monday, patients were left with myriad questions about the care they had received and whether the five local centers in Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown would remain open.
The suit also targets the centers' owner, Melissa Chlebowski, and her husband, Melchor Martinez, both of Allentown, as well as four sister mental health centers in Philadelphia and one in North Carolina.
The suit alleges the mental health clinics used unqualified stand-ins for psychiatrists and rushed patients through "medication management" visits. Federal prosecutors also say the centers were really run by Martinez, despite being prohibited since 2000 from participating in Medicaid, Medicare or any federally funded health care programs.
The civil action seeks damages and penalties.