published Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Therapy clinic in Chattanooga reopens after TBI search

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    A sign says the Center for Pediatric Therapy on Jordan Drive in Chattanooga has closed in this file photo.
    Photo by Ellis Smith.
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A Chattanooga therapy company that shut down unexpectedly earlier this month amid a fraud investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has reopened and is once again accepting patients.

A paper sign taped to the door of The Center For Pediatric Therapy after a TBI search on March 12 said that the children's therapy center was closed and would no longer be seeing patients, sending parents scrambling to find new care. But about a week later, that sign was gone, a half-dozen new staff members were hired, and the center was open for business.

"We're starting all over," said Deborah Tuck, a consulting practice manager who -- like many of the Center's employees now -- was hired last Wednesday.

TBI executed a search warrant on the company at 112 Jordan Drive on March 12. The search was just one part of a TBI Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigation that's been ongoing since April 2012, said TBI executive officer Illana Tate. After the search, between seven and nine of the Center for Pediatric Therapy's employees quit.

"They didn't give any kind of letters of resignation, there was no notice," Tuck said. "They just left. I can't guess at the thought process."

Former therapists at the clinic said they were told the center was closing, and that's why they left. But Tuck said the clinic shut down because the staff quit.

"Quite a bit of the staff left us because of that incident we had," she said. "And that's why we weren't taking patients, because we didn't have anybody to see them."

The Center for Pediatric Therapy has hired six new therapists in order to get back up and running. Owner Melody Gaston, whose occupational therapy license had expired in October 2013, has renewed her license and has been reinstated, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Gaston's license is now active and she can return to practice, spokeswoman Shelley Walker said.

The TBI investigation is still ongoing, and Tate could not estimate how long it will last. Tuck said the Center for Pediatric Therapy is cooperating with TBI, but would not comment on the specifics of the investigation.

"We have nothing to hide," Tuck said.

And while some patients decided to switch companies after the week-long shut down earlier this month, Tuck said that other patients have chosen to stay at the center.

"Every patient or parent who called and left a voicemail, every single one of those voicemails has been returned," she said.

TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said at least two of TennCare's health plans list Gaston Therapy -- that's the legal name for the Center for Pediatric Therapy -- as an in-network provider, and Tuck said she hasn't received any notice that the center's contracts have been changed or cancelled.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or with story ideas.

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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