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December 22, 2022

Operator of six Central Mass. healthcare facilities to pay $1.75M for failing to meet needs of patients with substance use disorder

Photo | Google Maps Worcester Rehabilitation & Health Care Center on Providence Street

Farmington, Connecticut-based Athena Health Care Systems has been ordered to pay $1.75 million to Massachusetts' Opioid Recovery and Remediation Trust Fund for failing to meet needs of patients with substance use disorder (SUD). 

Athena operates skilled nursing facilities throughout southern New England. It has six facilities in Central Massachusetts: Lanessa Extended Care in Webster; Marlborough Hills Rehabilitation & Health Care Center; Parsons Hill Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in Worcester; Southbridge Rehabilitation & Health Care Center; Webster Manor Rehabilitation & Health Care Center; and Worcester Rehabilitation & Health Care Center.

The AG’s Office investigated reports of substandard care or regulatory violations that allegedly started in March 2016 at Athena’s nursing homes, based on complaints referred by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, according to a Wednesday press release from the Office of the Attorney General Maura Healey.

Athena President and CEO Lawrence Santilli said in a written statement on Thursday that the company worked cooperatively with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office throughout the investigation.

Skilled nursing facilities participating in Medicare and MassHealth must follow various state and federal statutes, regulations, and rules governing their procedures and conduct. The AG’s Office alleges that Athena facilities, at the direction of Athena, admitted substantial numbers of residents with histories of SUD, despite the fact that the facilities did not have adequate levels of appropriately trained staff to meet the needs of those residents. 

The AG’s Office also alleges that numerous overdoses occurred at the Athena facilities, some of which Athena facilities failed to report to DPH. According to the AG’s Office, Athena was aware this conduct led to noncompliance with regulations but still encouraged the Athena facilities to admit residents with histories of SUD. 

The investigation by the AG’s Office also found that one of the facilities named in the settlement failed to adequately screen staff for COVID-19 infection, risking the spread of the virus to medically vulnerable residents.

In addition to the payment, Athena Health care will work with Alliant Health Solutions an Atlanta-based nonprofit to update Athena’s policies, procedures, and training with respect to its treatment of residents with histories of SUD.The company will also hire an auditor to review company records and report to the Attorney General’s office, as well as four full-time regional nurses dedicated to clinical operations and compliance.

“At Athena, we always aim to provide the highest quality of care for our patients and residents,” wrote Santilli. “To ensure this is the standard across all our centers, we are hiring the appropriate staff, expanding upon our compliance initiatives, and conducting staff training and education.”

In the case that future deficiencies are identified the Attorney General’s office can require Athena’s facilities to contract with an independent compliance monitor.

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December 25, 2022

So how does the money from this "settlement" work it's way back to the patients who were dis-served by alleged lack of staff? Ms Healey using companies as an ATM for the commonwealth just as Obama did with Bank of America.

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