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Reveal: A Mountain of Misconduct

Posted: November 11, 2015 at 12:38 pm by , in Featured, Morning Magazine, Reveal

By Julia B. Chan, Reveal

This month on Reveal, we team up with New Hampshire Public Radio health and science reporter Jack Rodolico to unveil 40 years of alleged abuse and neglect of people with disabilities at specialty rehab centers across the U.S.

We zoom in and take a close look at Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center, a facility nestled in the wooded foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, where people with severe disabilities were treated. For families all over the country, Lakeview was the last resort for their loved ones. For the owners, it was a lucrative business.

But patients suffered. Reveal exposes how for-profit rehab centers thrive on public dollars with little oversight.

 

Exposing abuse and neglect on The Mountain

Lakeview Abuse

During Ryan Libbey’s roughly one-month stay at Lakeview in 2011, his mother, Jennifer Cote, found unexplained bruises all over her son’s body. Image courtesy of Jennifer Cote

Reporter Jack Rodolico spent a year uncovering allegations of patient abuse and fraudulent billing practices at Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center – like charging Medicaid for changing channels on a TV. Along the way, he encountered a crusading mother who made secret recordings of state regulators in a desperate attempt to get someone to help her daughter.

 

 

Inappropriate love triangle blossoms at rehab

Inappropriate Love Triangle

Amy Mueller’s mother, Jackie, sued Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center for ethical and financial violations during the time her daughter was there. Image: Jack Rodolico/New Hampshire Public Radio

We travel back to the late 1990s with the story of another Lakeview patient, Amy Mueller, then a teenager, and her romantic relationship with at least one staff member.

Mueller’s family later sued the facility for billing for services that never were provided and putting her in danger.

 

 

 

The family behind the neuro rehab racket

FINR Brennicks

Joseph Brennick’s brain injury rehab center – the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, also known as FINR – sprawls across nearly 1,000 acres of gator-infested swampland in Wauchula. Image: Laura Starecheski/Reveal

Lakeview NeuroRehabilitation Center originally was part of a national chain of brain injury rehab centers called New Medico, owned by Charles Brennick of Boston. Nursing-home abuse investigator Sue Bessette teamed up with former New Medico patient Lucy Gwin in the early ’90s to uncover fraud and abuse across a $10 billion industry – leading to an FBI investigation.

We look for answers about why and how the Brennicks are still in business, heading to the swamps of Wauchula, Florida, to visit with Charles’ son, Joseph, at his brain injury rehab center, the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation.

 

 

 

Timeline: The endless cycle of abuse at neurorehab centers

 

 

 

Reveal is produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. For more, check out Reveal’s website and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.