CEO calls invasion “retaliation from a bunch of jack-booted thugs” in response to company’s lawsuits
San Clemente, Calif. — On Tuesday June 13, federal, state and local officials violently burst into the offices of Sovereign Health’s Culver City, Palm Desert and San Clemente facilities to serve search warrants for alleged financial and other irregularities. No arrests were made in the “raid,” which was executed by an odd mish-mash of law enforcement officials whose actions seemed aimed more at harassment than enforcing the law; one official from the Department of Health Care Services presented a business card with a crossed-out phone number; the new number was messily penned in. The “agents” also handed out sheets to patients with contact information for other behavioral treatment centers.
“The way they executed these search warrants was a disgrace,” said Sovereign CEO Tonmoy Sharma, M.B.B.S. MSc. “All they had to do was tell our senior management what they needed and we would have gladly complied. We have nothing to hide. Instead, they burst into our facilities, upsetting patients who are already fragile and dealing with trauma. They threatened our unarmed staff at gunpoint. And they didn’t even seem to know why they had busted into our facilities.”
The CEO said that the “raid” looked fishy from the outset. “They completely by-passed our accounting and financial staff, and instead trained weapons on employees who perform duties such as patient intake. They snatched away the laptops of the writers who create content for our websites, and tried to break down the door of a room where a patient was receiving neurofeedback, scaring them to death,” Sharma said. “They also searched my home and took medical books, yet bypassed a large empty safe which I offered the combination. This whole thing was ridiculous, so Mickey Mouse.”
Sovereign General Counsel Seth Zajac commented that on Tuesday, agents herded all the legal staff into separate offices and would not allow them to witness the raid activities. He commented that the actions of the law enforcement officials were extremely troubling and unethical.
“We think this whole thing was a ruse to obtain legal documents that otherwise would only be available in the discovery process, Mr. Zajac said. “We filed a lawsuit against Health Net, Inc. and several of their affiliates to end discrimination against rehabilitation providers, and they have filed a countersuit,” he explained. “Once we looked over the papers served to us on Tuesday, we realized that the language is nearly identical to that in the Health Net counter-claim.” He added, “Our impression is that the officials who showed up today are acting in the interests of privately-held insurance giants, and not in the interest of the public good.”
Sovereign has responded with forcefully through legal channels to other entities who have needlessly disrupted company business and upset clients; in 2016, they filed a formal complaint against the director of the California Department of Social Services that details a pattern of harassment by officials from the agency’s Community Care Licensing Division. Sovereign also filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health Care Services for an incident earlier this year when two agents burst into the company’s adolescent treatment center, roughed up an employee who was cooperating with their requests, and – unprovoked – drew a weapon in the presence of teen residents at the facility.
“Tell me, where is the ‘Care’ in the Department of Health Care Services?” commented Haroon Ahmad, Sovereign media and public relations specialist. “This is the second time in a matter of months that so-called enforcement actions have caused unnecessary trauma to our patients and disrupted our business of caring for people who are dealing with very serious substance use and mental health issues.”
He added that Sovereign, like many behavioral health treatment centers nationwide, are under siege from officials and sectors of the public who try to ban treatment facilities in certain neighborhoods. “We call it NIMBYism – Not in My Backyard – when people try to legislate treatment out of existence,” Mr. Ahmad said. “The media is constantly reporting on the opioid epidemic and the nationwide shortage of available beds, yet local politicians and others have mobilized to push treatment facilities out of neighborhoods. We’ve been joining the San Clemente public in protesting against the NIMBY mentality. This and our legal push back against the authorities makes us a target.”
Sovereign, CEO Sharma said, will carry on with business as usual at all their facilities. “We are not letting the retaliatory actions of jack-booted thugs get in the way of the important business of providing top-notch care for our patients with addiction and mental health issues,” CEO Sharma said. “We know what is behind this pattern of harassment and strong-armed tactics. We will not be intimidated and we will prevail.”
About Sovereign Health
Sovereign Health has qualified for the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal accreditation since 2013 and consistently ranks as a top provider of behavioral health services, according to the independent eBasis report ratings from McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. In McLean’s quarterly reports for 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, Sovereign has surpassed 50 other treatment centers nationwide in several important health care measures.
Sovereign Health’s facilities are licensed in accordance with state regulations. The Joint Commission is the nation’s leading health care standards-setting and accrediting organization, and sets a very high bar for qualifying for the Gold Seal designation. Sovereign’s extensive national network of nine facilities across five states also enjoys the distinction of being accredited to provide concurrent mental health and substance use treatment, a rarity in the field.
Sovereign Health’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of high-quality behavioral health treatment services for adults and adolescents, including support services for family members. One factor that differentiates Sovereign from other treatment providers has been the company’s ability to offer separate mental health and addiction or dual diagnosis treatment programs at its facilities. For more information, visit www.sovhealth.com.