published Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Chattanooga therapy clinic closed amid TBI medicaid fraud investigation

The Chattanooga children's therapy company that abruptly shut down last week is being investigated for fraud by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, according to the TBI.

The Center for Pediatric Therapy closed without warning a day after the TBI executed a search warrant on the property last week. But the search was just one step in an ongoing investigation into the center that started in April 2012, TBI spokeswoman Illana Tate said. TBI did not force the business to close.

Owner Melody Gaston shut the business down of her own accord after the search, leaving only paper signs on the center's doors at 112 Jordan Drive to notify parents. Gaston did not return messages left on her cell phone.

The Center for Pediatric Therapy is not registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State. Instead, Gaston was technically operating as Gaston Therapy out of the Center for Pediatric Therapy's location, state records indicate.

Additionally, Gaston's occupational therapy license expired in October 2013, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, because the board did not receive a renewal application or fees by the expiration date.

"If she is or has been working as a licensed occupational therapist, the Tennessee Board of Occupational Therapy may impose disciplinary action depending on the severity of the situation," said Shelley Walker, the board's assistant director of communications. That disciplinary action could range from revoking Gaston's license to levying a financial penalty, she added.

Any licensing investigation by the Department of Health is a civil investigation, not a criminal one like the TBI investigation could be.

Parents of the center's young patients were frustrated by the lack of communication and the abrupt closure. Calina Scott's 7-year-old son has been attending the center for about six months, and she said any change in routine is hard, especially if it's unexpected.

"Some of the kids have a hard time transitioning to see new people," she said. "To be thrust into a whole new environment with potentially all new people is going to be shocking and damaging to these kids because they're not prepared. These kids have to have structure and routine and when they don't have that, it throws everything off."

  • photo
    A sign says the Center for Pediatric Therapy on Jordan Drive in Chattanooga has closed in this file photo.
    Photo by Ellis Smith.
    enlarge photo

Scott intends to send her son to Stellar Therapy Services, a rival therapy company in town that quickly hired several therapists who previously worked at the Center for Pediatric Therapy. That way, she said, he'll at least be able to work with the same speech therapist.

TBI has taken the Center for Pediatric Therapy's original medical records for protection and has provided the center with electronic versions, Tate said. New providers should be able to access the electronic records from the Center for Pediatric Therapy.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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