AUGUSTA — About 500 people in central Maine will have to find MaineCare-paid coverage through other agencies after the state stopped payment to Augusta-based Umbrella Mental Health Services and AngleZ Behavioral Health Services.
The state has received “a credible allegation of fraud” and an investigation is pending, according to John Martins, spokesman for the state Department of Health & Human Services.
He said once that happens, the state is obligated to halt payments.
DHHS doesn’t conduct the investigation. That’s normally done by state or federal prosecutors.
Earlier this week, the clients of Umbrella Mental Health Services and AngleZ Behavioral Health Services, most of whom live in Kennebec and Lincoln counties, were notified by the state about a potential disruption in services. They were given a phone number of MaineCare Services member services, that would give them names and phone numbers of other behavioral health and mental health services providers who are taking new patients.
The agencies provide case management services and help people get access to medical, social, educational and mental health services and medication management.
Martins said Saturday morning no one is losing coverage — the state works with all who were receiving services from the agencies to find other service providers who are accepting patients.
Marjorie Averill, who owns Umbrella Mental Health Services, was in the office Friday but in meetings, and she did not return a reporter’s call.
At Angelz Behavioral Health Services, owner Annalee K. Morris said Friday she had “no comment at this time.”
Averill, a licensed clinical social worker, and Morris, a registered nurse, previously were co-owners of Umbrella Mental Health. The AngleZ agency has offices in Augusta and Winthrop.
Workers at Umbrella Mental Health Services were told earlier this week by the owner that they would be suspended temporarily.
“My biggest concern is all the clients who live in rural Maine who need rides to doctors’ appointments, therapy appointments, the grocery store and the pharmacy,” said Traci Hoffman, of Washington, one of those laid off. An additional concern, she said, is that workers are due three weeks’ worth of pay but were told they would receive only one week’s worth.
“We live paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “It’s a major disruption.”
The Department of Labor’s Rapid Response teams have been in contact with both of the businesses, said Julie Rabinowitz, department spokeswoman. She said she did not know the total number of affected employees yet. “As of this time, any layoffs would be temporary,” she said via email.
Hoffman said she was told a Rapid Response Team would be at the Umbrella Mental Health Services Augusta office on Monday.
Hoffman said she has been working in the industry for 28 years, although she has been with Umbrella Mental Health Services for two to three months.
“At this point, I’d like to go back to work in hopes that they don’t have to close down permanently,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman is a certified registered medication aide, a direct support professional, a personal support specialist and a mental health rehabilitation technician.
Martins said the letters to the agencies’ clients were meant to make them aware of the potential for disruption.
“We believe we can meet the service needs with a bit of hard work,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for us for a variety of reasons to be put in the position of helping people find services.”
Martins also said the provider agencies can appeal the suspension.
Betty Adams — 621-5631
This is a corrected version of this story