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VOL. 37 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 29, 2013

Owners of center tell feds of health care probe

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A Dickson County drug rehabilitation center is reported to be under investigation about whether officials filed false claims for TennCare recipients.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/10lBGbt) cited a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing by CRC Health Group, the owner of New Life Lodge, in reporting the state attorney general has demanded records from the center.

The filing also states the U.S. Department of Justice is participating in the state probe. U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin said his office does not confirm or deny investigations are taking place. The newspaper reported TennCare officials and the state attorney general did not respond to requests for comment.

"This inquiry does not relate to current operations," New Life Lodge Executive Director Randal Lea said. "New Life Lodge takes this matter very seriously."

The state shut down New Life in November 2011. It wa s allowed to reopen in April 2012, but only with about one-third as many patients. New Life was once the largest residential rehabilitation facility in the state.

Investigative reports by The Tennessean in 2011 uncovered the deaths of two patients in 2010, another patient who died shortly after leaving New Life and other patients who complained of overcrowding and inadequate medical care.

The Department of Children's Services also terminated its contract with the center. When the business reopened last year, it discontinued its children's treatment program.

Disclosure of the state and federal investigation comes as the treatment center in Burns, Tenn., faces two lawsuits in the deaths of patients. A third lawsuit - dropped on technical grounds - is expected to be refiled.

In a prepared statement, Lea said the center is operating properly.

"We are dedicated to ensuring that our facility provides the best care possible to individuals and families i n need," Lea said. "New Life Lodge follows community standards of care, is licensed by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and is a fully accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility."