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Local addiction treatment facility raided by federal agents

Becky Campbell • May 2, 2018 at 10:29 PM

The home of a local addiction treatment doctor and the eight recovery centers he operates in Virginia and Tennessee were raided Wednesday by federal agents — a move Dr. Tom Reach called “overzealous” that could likely cause drug overdose deaths in the region.

As the search warrants, signed by U.S. Magistrate Dennis Inman in Greeneville, were executed at the various Tennessee treatment centers, patients were turned away as they showed up for their appointments. A Johnson City police officer stood guard at the front door to tell people the business was closed. Agents inside the center refused to speak to the Press.

Reach said he was driving to Virginia when his wife called around 10 a.m. to tell him the “feds were raiding the house.” He returned home to find Drug Enforcement Agents taking documents from his home.

“They downloaded my computer, my wife’s computer and my daughter’s computer and they downloaded our phones,” Reach said. The computers at the various treatment centers were also apparently downloaded as well as the personal cellphones of the agency’s employees. Reach said the DEA could have walked in and asked to see whatever they wanted to see and he would have complied willingly.

“This wasn’t necessary,” he said. “There were no charges and no one was arrested. We have done absolutely nothing illegal, immoral or unethical.”

Reach said the search warrant he was given allowed agents to search for a variety of documents, including anything related to Medicaid or Medicare, banking records and medical records and anything related to the distribution of drugs or misbranding of drugs.

He said the treatment centers have never taken Medicare or Medicaid and does not file insurance claims, although some patients are reimbursed for their medications. He also said there are no medications at the recovery centers and doctors do not administer medications.

“We have no medications in our facilities at any time,” he said.

Reach said with his background in addiction recovery and work in helping set standards in the field, he was shocked by what happened Wednesday. As far as the agency’s finances, Reach said all profits go back into the company, but right now it is upside down financially.

“We have set ourselves up as a national standard of care on how to do Suboxone right. I’m the past president on the Tennessee Society of Addiction Medicine, I’m on the legislative committee of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, we’ve had Micah Van Huss, Matthew Hill, Ron Ramsey, Phil Roe in our office. We’ve had other clinics come from other states to examine our model and build the model we built.

“I helped write the legislation for the state of Tennessee for the OBOT (Office Based Opioid Treatment) rules and regulations because of the unethical practices of unethical physicians. I was on the governor’s advisory committee in Virginia,” said.

Reach said he and his staff will do everything possible to be open Thursday so patients don’t have a lapse in their care.

“My concern is that in the present political environment that things have just gotten a little bit out of hand. The guys that are treating addiction are not the problem. My main concern is for 4,500 patients and their families that now are going to have trouble getting care or they’ll have to go to other providers that don’t provide the level of care that we do,” he said. Reach said he’s also concerned for the 100 people he employs at the centers across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

“We’re going to do the best we can to have our doors open tomorrow,” Reach said. He said agents seized all paper records at each site, but there are still electronic records he “hopes we can access. (The agents) have done everything they can do to hinder us from taking care of addicts that need treatment, and that is not the national model for health care when it comes to treating the disease of opiate dependency.”

According to the Watauga Recover Center website, patients with opiate dependence are treated with Suboxone, a medication comprised of buprenorphine and naloxone, for their physical addiction and treatment plans require patients attend at least one AA or NA meeting per month at the facility. The agency also encourages patients to attend additional 12-step recovery meetings in the community as well.

Reach said he’s concerned that patients who haven’t been able to overcome their addiction and can’t get the care and medication prescriptions they receive at Watauga Recovery Center could cause them to resort to street drugs.

“This kind of action could cause overdose deaths,” he said.

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