Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - May 21, 2015, Cedar Rapids, Iowa TOP STORIES Thursday, May 21, 2015 œ The Gazette 3A © 2015 The Gazette By Chelsea Keenan, The Gazette An outpatient treatment center submitted and was reimbursed more than $ 130,550 in unsupported or improper claims to the Iowa Department of Public Health over a two- anda- half- year period, according to a state audit released Wednesday. The Center for Behavioral Health is an outpatient treatment center that provides services to those addicted to opiates and other drugs or alcohol. CBH also provides treatment for HIV, compulsive gambling issues and domestic violence. The department said it now is working with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to recoup the funds. The Meridian, Idahobased group, which has treatment centers in Iowa in Davenport and Des Moines as well as seven other states, received money from the state’s public health department through the Access to Recovery program — a federal grant that assists individuals recovering from addiction — between Jan. 1, 2011, and May 21, 2013. “ The State Auditor’s Office report is the culmination of an investigation IDPH initiated two years ago when the improprieties were determined during a contractor review,” the Iowa Department of Public Health said in a statement. At that time, the health department said, the state’s contract with CBH was suspended and payments to the organization halted. According to the report, the owner of CBH notified the Department of Public Health of suspected misuse of funds at the Des Moines treatment center on May 21, 2013. The CBH owner — unnamed in the department’s report — confronted Executive Director Mindy Williams, who admitted to using CBH funds for personal use and falsifying supporting documentation, according to the audit. The reimbursements consisted of more than $ 55,000 in gas cards, $ 12,600 in gift cards and incentives, $ 12,000 in wellness fees, $ 10,300 in bus passes, $ 4,400 in drug screenings and $ 13,700 in improper care coordination. The audit also found more than $ 13,000 of unsupported gas card reimbursements and $ 7,300 of unsupported bus pass reimbursements, among others. The audit noted there were “ significant deficiencies” in the completion of necessary forms for the reimbursements, including a lack of client signatures as well as signatures of a CBH treatment center employee, which both are required. There also was no documentation of the amount of services provided, and there was evidence of alteration of the forms after the signatures and dates had been applied, the audit stated. “ In addition, we determined the checks were often issued to Ms. Williams in advance of the actual purchase rather than as a reimbursement,” the audit noted. Brent Massman, president of the Iowa centers, told the Associated Press that Williams, an employee since 2006, has resigned. He said no one else in the clinic was aware of her actions. Calls to CBH by The Gazette were not returned by deadline. The State Auditor’s Office report concluded that the Department of Public Health should take steps to improve its reimbursement policies, including obtaining original receipts. Copies of the report have been filed with the Des Moines Police Department, the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Polk County Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. œ Comments: ( 319) 398- 8331; chelsea. keenan@ thegazette. com HEALTH CARE State wants money back from treatment center Audit: Executive at Des Moines site used funds for herself $ 130,550 Amount of improper or unsupported claims that were submitted by the Center for Behavioral Health and reimbursed. $ 55,000 Amount of improper gas card reimbursements included in that amount. $ 10,300 Amount of improper bus pass reimbursements included in the amount. BY THE NUMBERS By Erin Murphy, Gazette- Lee Des Moines Bureau DES MOINES — A package of anti- bullying programs and provisions designed for Iowa’s public schools was narrowly defeated last night in the Iowa House. Rep. Chris Hall, D- Sioux City, introduced the anti- bullying legislation and pleaded with lawmakers for its passage. It was voted down, 50- 46. The anti- bullying proposal for three years has been a priority of Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. It passed with bipartisan support in the Democrat- controlled Senate, 43- 7, in March. The legislation has idled ever since in the House, where leaders declined to bring it to the floor for a debate and vote. Hall last night called up the legislation as an amendment to a catchall bill containing funding and policy. “ It is our obligation to address this,” Hall said. “ It is overdue.” The legislation allows schools to address incidents that occur off- grounds and online, and requires parental notification except for when the victim or school officials fear further harm. Five House Republicans joined 41 House Democrats in supporting the anti- bullying proposal. Among them was Rep. Ron Jorgensen, R- Sioux City, who is chairman of the House Education Committee and a former Sioux City school board member. The measure was opposed by 50 House Republicans. Four members — two from each party — were absent. Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R- Le Mars, urged his colleagues to oppose the measure, citing concerns the expansion of school authority off school grounds could interfere with law enforcement. He also said schools have told him they already are doing everything they can to address bullying. A spokesman for Branstad said the governor still is hopeful the legislation will pass. œ Comments: ( 515) 422- 9061; erin. murphy@ lee. net Legislators still sparring over education LEGISLATURE House rejects anti- bullying proposal By Rod Boshart, Gazette Des Moines Bureau DES MOINES — Education advocates pleaded unsuccessfully Wednesday with GOP legislators for increased state aid to K- 12 schools, prompting an Iowa City Democrat to accuse House Republicans of “ sabotaging” 2013 state teacher leadership reforms by failing to adequately fund education for the next two fiscal years. Lobbyists representing school boards, teachers and rural and urban schools argued the scaled- back 2 percent growth in state aid offered by majority House Republicans for fiscal 2017 on top of their 1.25 percent increase for next school year would result in larger class sizes, fewer teachers, higher property taxes and school closures. “ This does not get us to world- class education, and we are disappointed,” Connie Ryan- Terrell of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund told a House Appropriations subcommittee. The panel approved a 2 percent increase in state aid for K- 12 schools for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016. The fiscal 2017 state aid level also was approved by the full committee Wednesday. “ The students’ needs are increasing at a time state resources are not,” added Margaret Buckton, who represents the Rural School Association of Iowa and the Urban Education Network. Concern over state resources prompted the House GOP position, said Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R- Le Mars. He noted that projected state revenue growth was scaled back since a House panel approved a 2.45 percent growth rate, and concerns have arisen about bird flu’s economic effect. “ I think we need to be cautious,” said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, R- Mount Ayr, who noted the 2 percent increase coupled with money for education reforms would mean an extra $ 125 million to schools for the 2016- 17 school year. Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed a 2.45 percent boost in supplemental state aid for K- 12 schools in fiscal 2017, while Democrats who control the Iowa Senate favor a 4 percent boost. Dolecheck said the yearly $ 50 million for the teacher leadership initiative equated to an extra 1.5 percent in state funding to schools for the next two fiscal years on top of the base increases. Rep. Mary Mascher, D- Iowa City, said the education reform money was intended to be considered separately from base state aid, and House GOP funding levels to schools would be “ sabotaging” reform efforts. œ Comments: ( 515) 243- 7220; rod. boshart@ thegazette. com FIREWORKS GAIN HOUSE APPROVAL DES MOINES — The Iowa House late Wednesday passed legislation legalizing more consumer- grade fireworks like cones and bottle rockets. Current law allows for the only sparklers and other novelties. Some lawmakers from both parties expressed safety concerns with legalizing fireworks, joining the concerns raised by the medical organizations that oppose the legislation. Others said they oppose the bill because of the concerns of veterans whose post- traumatic stress disorder can be triggered by fireworks. Rep. Matt Windschitl, R- Missouri Valley, said the proposal is a matter of personal liberty. The bill passed, 53- 43, with a mixture of legislators from both parties voting for and against the bill. 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