Lincoln, Copiah counties’ Region 8 Mental Health Service centers not part of fraud allegations resulting in $7 million payout

Published 2:56 pm Thursday, December 14, 2017

Region 8 Mental Health Services, a regional community health center covering Copiah, Lincoln, Madison, Rankin and Simpson Counties, has agreed to pay the United States government in excess of $6.93 million under the False Claims Act to resolve allegations that it was paid for services that it either did not provide or that were not provided by qualified individuals.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said the charges stem from the operation of the region’s preschool Day Treatment program.

United States Attorney Mike Hurst said the case is believed to be the largest False Claims Act healthcare settlement in the history of the Mississippi.

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Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop, president of the Statewide Mental Health Commissioners Group and  Region 8 Mental Health Services Commissioner representing Lincoln County, said neither Copiah or Lincoln counties were part of the allegations.

Hurst’s office also confirmed the allegations did not involve practices in Copiah or Lincoln. Lincoln County joined Region 8 in 2010.

Region 8 operated a day treatment program for preschool-age children. During its investigation, the government discovered many of the claims submitted for payment from 2004 to 2010 were for services that were either not provided or were not provided by qualified individuals.

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health reports nearly 35,000 Mississippi children and adolescents suffer mental health issues that are “severe and persistent,” requiring behavioral intervention such as day treatment programs.

“Our children are among the most valuable and vulnerable in our society, and it is imperative that we do all that we can to protect the programs that offer them the services that they need,” Hurst said.

Derrick Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Health and Human Services, said his office would monitor Region 8 to ensure services were being provided correctly.

“It is imperative that these children receive the behavioral intervention services they need,” he said.

The allegations settled Thursday arose from a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower who was a former employee of the company under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the government for false claims and share in any recovery. Such private citizens are referred to as relators. The relator in this case will receive more than $1 million from the recovery announced Thursday.