DANVERS — The parent company of nine nursing homes in Massachusetts and Rhode Island — including Hathorne Hill in Danvers, Sutton Hill Center in North Andover and Academy Manor in Andover — has entered an agreement with federal prosecutors to resolve allegations that the homes refused to admit patients who were being treated for opioid addiction.
In the “voluntary resolution agreement,” released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services, Pennsylvania-based Genesis HealthCare admits no wrongdoing but has agreed to a series of measures to bring the facilities into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Affordable Care Act. Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island began investigating after receiving complaints that patients who were receiving methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone) treatment were being denied admission to Genesis facilities.
The two drugs are among those used for what is now known as medication-assisted treatment for opiate use disorder. Opiate use disorder is considered a disability under federal law.
The patients were seeking admission for treatment of other conditions.
The settlement assessed a $60,000 penalty, of which Genesis will have to pay $10,000 within 30 days. The balance would be suspended and then waived as long as Genesis complies with the remaining requirements, including revising or adopting new admissions, discrimination and training policies and practices to bring them into line with federal requirements.
“The ADA is the law of the land, and the ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities — including opioid use disorder,” said acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell in a press release announcing the settlement. Genesis is the fourth skilled nursing facility operator in Massachusetts to settle allegations of denying admission to patients receiving opiate treatment.
In a statement, Lori Mayer, a spokeswoman for Genesis, said the firm “entered into a voluntary resolution” to “avoid the expense of litigation.”
“There was no admission of wrongdoing by the centers, nor did the government provide clinical or any other information in support of the allegations,” Mayer said in the statement.
“To avoid the expense of litigation, however, the centers nevertheless agreed to clarify their admission policies to ensure full compliance with the ADA in connection with medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders,” the statement said. “The updated policy confirms that admission decisions must ensure the safety of all residents in accordance with ADA law, consistent with Genesis policy.”
In the agreement, the company denies any awareness of the alleged practice of turning away some patients due to their opioid treatment.
“The designated Genesis facilities do not admit the allegations asserted by the United States herein and are not aware of the clinical or other circumstances of their alleged denials of admission in the referenced compliance reviews,” the agreement says. “Nonetheless, the (facilities) have agreed to clarify or revise ... admissions policies to assure full compliance with the ADA.”
In December, the Justice Department reached an agreement with Massachusetts-based Alliance Health and Human Services, which operates eight facilities, including nursing homes in Peabody and Marblehead, to settle similar allegations. Two other firms, Athena Health Care Systems, which operates Oxford Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Haverhill, and Charlwell House, which operates on the South Shore, also previously settled similar complaints.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.