Health Care

Mental health provider closes offices statewide

Dominion Healthcare, a mental health provider with a rocky past, has closed.

Dominion's chief executive, Joel Hopkins, once boasted of having more than 1,000 employees in offices throughout the state.

But the company shrank when the government challenged its operations and changed policies that governed the company's mainstay, the low-tier mental health service called community support.

Larry Hall, one of the company's lawyers, said all Dominion offices had closed. He was not certain when they shut down, but a former Dominion client said she was told the Wake offices closed last Thursday.

Hopkins did not return telephone calls.

Dominion was highlighted last year in a News & Observer series on mental health as an example of companies that capitalized on the state's push to give private companies more responsibility for treating the mentally ill.

State and local mental health offices investigated allegations that Dominion offered services to people who did not need it, and for other alleged infractions.

The state tried to shut down Dominion last year, but the company sued.

In an October settlement, the state agreed the company could stay in business, but required Dominion to repay $1.6 million in disputed Medicaid claims. The company also had to meet goals for submitting Medicaid claims without errors.

Hopkins said in late January that he met with state Department of Health and Human Services officials and state lawyers in an attempt to ease the payment schedule. Brad Deen, a spokesman for DHHS, said Dominion had paid a little more than half of the settlement and would be liable for the full amount.

In the meantime, the state Department of Labor received dozens of complaints from Dominion employees who said the company was not paying them all they were owed.

Hall said the company needed more timely Medicaid payments to pay the settlement and keep the company going.

"The extensive lag time between processing of claims was causing a problem managing coverage with consumers," said Hall, a Democratic state House representative from Durham.

Though the company is closed, its court cases live on. Dominion lawyer Hugh Eighmie II said a federal judge on Thursday ordered the company's lawsuit against a private company and local mental health offices sent back to Durham Superior Court.

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