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A Missouri nonprofit that once was Arkansas' major behavioral health provider said Tuesday that it will cease operations in the state by Oct. 12.

Preferred Family Healthcare had been trying to sell its remaining clinics in Arkansas to a Russellville company, but said in a news release that those talks had collapsed.

Preferred Family's announcement comes after months of corruption scandals involving former employees and executives and the conviction or guilty pleas of four former Arkansas legislators.

After a former Preferred Family executive was charged with Medicaid fraud, the Arkansas Department of Human Services terminated its contracts with the nonprofit, which provided approximately 5,200 Medicaid recipients with behavioral health services at 47 Arkansas locations.

Preferred Family Healthcare brought in more than $33 million a year through the Arkansas Medicaid program before the state cut the agreements, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported.

The company, which is based in Springfield, Mo., will be responsible for transferring the care of the approximately 5,200 patients to other Medicaid providers in the state, as part of an agreement its officials signed when the organization became a Medicaid provider, said Amy Webb, chief of communications and community engagement for Human Services Department. The nonprofit will have 30 days to complete this process.

"Well, our hope is that the beneficiaries will be able to find new providers that they feel comfortable with and can continue to get services seamlessly without interruption or issue," Webb said.

The Human Services Department will help facilitate this transition by pulling together a list of all the Medicaid providers in the counties where Preferred Family Healthcare previously served its patients, Webb said. The officials will then let the Medicaid patients know which providers they can choose from to continue treatment.

Preferred Family has already transferred some of its patients in Northwest Arkansas, the newspaper previously reported.

Last month, it announced that it was negotiating an arrangement with TrueNorth, another mental-health services provider based in Russellville, to buy Preferred Family's Arkansas locations. But the deal fell through, Preferred Family said Tuesday in announcing its decision to close its Arkansas locations.

Webb said that if TrueNorth had been a Medicaid provider in good standing, it could have taken over Preferred Family Healthcare's Medicaid patients. She said she did not know whether TrueNorth was a Medicaid provider.

Because Preferred Family Healthcare is closing its Arkansas operations, employees from the 47 locations, will lose their jobs. Previous reports said the company had about 700 employees.

Other service providers could possibly hire Preferred Family Healthcare's Arkansas employees, Webb said, but the decision lies with the providers.

Preferred Family Healthcare has been under fire since a federal investigation implicated the company's executives in a kickback affair. The company has since fired these employees. Courts have found four former Arkansas lawmakers guilty of crimes associated with the public-corruption investigation and is still investigating additional Arkansas legislators.

Most recently, former Preferred Family executive director Robin Raveendran, who also had been an employee of the Human Services Department, was charged with two felony counts of Medicaid fraud by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

A Section on 09/12/2018

Print Headline: Sale fails, Preferred Family to exit state

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