People who struggle with mental health issues not only have to deal with the symptoms and disabilities that come along with the diagnosis, but also with the stigma that is placed upon them by society. Even though there are a wide variety of treatment programs available to help mental health patients deal with the symptoms, disabilities and social labels, there are some unprofessional mental health professionals that take advantage of the disadvantaged. The Department of Justice reports that a former licensed mental health counselor in Florida took advantage of many of his mental health patients and billed Medicare for approximately $63 million for services that were not provided.
The press release reports that a 50-year-old former licensed mental health counselor, who worked at a mental health facility that claimed to provide Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) services, was aware that personnel at two center locations were routinely fabricating notes for patient records. (A PHP is a combination of in-patient and out-patient treatment for severe mental illness.) These false records, which were created weeks and months after the patients had been admitted to the treatment facilities, were used to file fraudulent bills with Medicare and Florida Medicaid over a period of approximately seven years.
The Miami resident pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He is facing a maximum sentence of 10 years.
It looks like this fraudster is going to learn an important lesson in empathy while serving out his prison term. Even after his jail time is over, this former counselor may need some therapy of his own to deal with the stigma of being a criminal.