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Allegation against rural Nevada boarding school included Medicaid fraud

Parents and employees questioned the legitimacy of Northwest Academy’s program and services for years. Their concerns came to a head in 2018, when the state received an allegation of Medicaid fraud.

Officials determined the allegation was credible and temporarily suspended payments to the boarding school.

When it closed this year, the facility was housing 52 Medicaid recipients.

The school was authorized as a behavioral health community network, which requires a medical director to oversee its psychosocial rehabilitation services. In addition, the school was required to have a licensed mental health care provider, such as a psychologist, and a social worker.

But records show Northwest Academy had not been in compliance since at least April 2017, when its medical director, Dr. Norton Roitman, resigned. The school was required to notify the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy but never did so, according to the division, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program.

The 2018 fraud allegation surfaced over concerns of overbilling for services that were not being provided or were performed by unlicensed staff, according to a Nye County District Court filing.

In late January 2015, for example, concerns about the school from Lyon County juvenile probation officials prompted a visit by the state Department of Health and Human Services, which licensed Northwest Academy as a child care facility.

During that visit, according to emails obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, co-owner Patricia Chappuis “admitted to working with the children without proper qualifications.”

After Northwest Academy sought a temporary restraining order in District Court, claiming that clerical issues led to the “appearance” of overbilling, the division agreed to lift the suspension.

— Rio Lacanlale and Amelia Pak-Harvey, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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