Maurice Clarett shuts down his Columbus behavioral health agency
Former Ohio State University football player Maurice Clarett has closed the Columbus branch of his behavioral health agency, citing problems with Medicaid billing.
The Red Zone office on Parsons Avenue on the South Side ceased operations in late January and has referred its 100 or so clients to other local health providers, company attorney Ryan Stubenrauch said Thursday.
All 10 jobs were eliminated.
Stubenrauch said The Red Zone‘s much-larger Youngstown site, which has at least 90 employees, continues to provide mental-health and substance-abuse services in northeastern Ohio.
Both the Medicaid managed-care organization CareSource and The Red Zone officials discovered significant errors after a billing review, Stubenrauch said. The problems resulted in many claims to Medicaid being denied.
“It was a mess,” he said. “There were basic requirements that apply to every Medicaid provider in the country that were not being done. Staff had been talked to and reminded. It was consistent and egregious.”
In some instances, Stubenrauch said, questions arose about whether services actually had been provided.
He blamed problems on performance and management, saying he doesn‘t think anyone was trying to commit fraud.
Former Red Zone employees, however, said Thursday that Clarett is unfairly blaming workers.
“He‘s putting it on the staff. He’s in deep water, to me,” Keah Carter said. “How are we penalized for paperwork that you were giving us?”
Carter, who served as a mental health specialist and worked with students at Westgate Alternative Elementary School, said The Red Zone employees “were never properly trained. We were all thrown into stuff.”
Beth Laurenz, a chemical dependency counselor, said she worked for the Columbus office for 10 months, making her one of the longest-tenured employees.
“I never got any training,” she said. “I shadowed another counselor for one day, that‘s it. I did the best I could.”
The abrupt closing left students, foster children and people struggling to recover from addiction without counselors they had come to trust, she said.
“I had the largest client load there. I am now counseling them free of charge to help,” Laurenz said.
The Red Zone had been providing mental- and behavioral-health services to students and a few families in Columbus City schools, district spokeswoman Jacqueline Bryant said in an email. The school district did not pay the agency; services were billed to Medicaid or other insurance.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Clarett said he‘s proud of the company but couldn’t succeed as he‘d hoped in Columbus.
“If things can be fixed, we fix them and if they can’t then we respectfully move on,” he wrote.
The Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County released a statement about the closing.
“The Red Zone does not have a business relationship with the ADAMH organization. However, local providers in the ADAMH System of Care can help.”
The board says anyone who needs immediate crisis services or a referral for ongoing services can contact the following resources:
Adults, Netcare, (614) 276-CARE (2273); Youth 17 and under, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, (614) 722-1800.
According to the Ohio secretary of state‘s office, Clarett has at least seven limited-liability companies, including the Red Zone, registered in the state.
“He‘s got an awful lot of irons in the fire,” Stubenrauch said.
The 36-year-old Clarett, a tailback for one season at Ohio State, helped the Buckeyes win the college football national championship in 2002.
He was sentenced in 2006 to 7 1/2 years in prison for robbery and weapons convictions but was released in 2010.
Since his release from prison, Clarett has made a career of public speaking and as an author, businessman and advocate.