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August 14, 2011

Crazy Water hotel owner backtracks

Miller threatened to prohibit access to home health agency until DA threatened grand jury investigation

By Chris Agee | cagee@mineralwellsindex.com

Crazy Water Retirement Hotel owner Charles Miller reportedly dropped a bombshell on the building's residents Aug. 5 when he delivered a letter stating their choice in home health care providers would be limited to two – Health Care Partners at Home and Beyond Faith.

According to the letter, the Crazy Water effective last Tuesday would "no longer be allowing IntegraCare Home Health or Hospice in our building."

After being contacted by Charlotte Patterson, chief corporate compliance officer for IntegraCare, Miller reportedly recognized he had not given the provider sufficient time to discharge its patients and delayed the effective date until Friday.

Patterson said her company is one of the providers serving the Crazy Water, with between five and seven patients living at the property. After the letter was issued, she added, one of the company's hospice patients made the choice to move.

Without the possibility of hospice care included in the provided health care choices, Patterson said Miller addressed her concern by saying residents in hospice care could leave the Crazy Water or make other arrangements, saying the sentiment Miller uses often in conversation is, "it's not my problem."

She said Miller informed her the reason IntegraCare was being denied access to their patients was because the company was "not sending them referrals."

Mineral Wells Police Chief Mike McAllester said he was contacted by an IntegraCare representative questioning whether Miller's action was legal.

After discussing details, McAllester said the department's position was that a property owner cannot restrict who renters allow in their residences.

He contacted District Attorney Mike Burns, who reportedly agreed and began an investigation into the matter.

Patterson said Burns' action, along with those of the MWPD and City Manager Lance Howerton, played a major role in preventing the situation from becoming far more serious.

Burns reportedly became involved immediately and spent much of the past week working for the best interests of Crazy Water residents. He said he was prepared to issue a subpoena for hotel officials to appear before a grand jury Sept. 15, though in light of their decision to rescind the activity in question his office withdrew the subpoena.

"It satisfied me so everything has been withdrawn," Burns said.

The case is closed for the time being, though whether it will be reopened in the future is now up to Miller, the district attorney added.

"There's no indication of that but I guess that depends on their conduct," Burns said.

"The DA stepped up and has gone above and beyond the call of duty to shake every tree to make sure these residents' rights were secured," Paterson said.

Patterson said she received word late Friday morning that Miller's attorney had rescinded the order dictating the choices available for residents.

Patterson said her displeasure with Miller's actions had nothing to do with IntegraCare, instead her concern was for the well-being of the residents.

Had the reason for Miller's decision been based on subpar treatment on IntegraCare's part, Patterson said she would have understood, though said she feels Miller is "hid[ing] behind these poor people for his financial gain."

"Anyone with Medicare has a right to choose their provider," she said.

When patients and doctors began complaining about Miller's directive, Patterson said.

While the possible immediate upheaval to Crazy Water residents has been mitigated by the decision to stop this action, Patterson said she is concerned about future actions.

According to Cecilia Federov, public information officer for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Crazy Water is currently still licensed as an assisted-living facility and faces a deadline of Aug. 18 to notify the department whether they wish to renew or relinquish the license.

Without an assisted-living license and the oversight by the Department of Aging and Disability Services associated with it, Patterson said, Miller can virtually treat his relationship with residents as a landlord-tenant situation.

This could afford him the option of including health care provider restrictions in future leases and the ability to evict those not willing to abide by those restrictions, Patterson said, something she hopes he will not attempt.

The rescission letter issued by Miller Friday left open that possibility, stating residents would be allowed to retain the provider of their choice "under your current lease with our community."

According to Federov, though, even if the facility did relinquish their assisted-living program, DADS has several clients at the Crazy Water who receive services through a program called Community-Based Alternatives.

That distinction means DADS will still have authority over the facility's operations, she said, adding "all consumers have the right to choose their provider."

Federov said DADS will investigate to determine whether the agency should intervene.

"It is a violation of resident's rights for a consumer to be told they have to use a specific provider," she said, even if the restriction is included as part of a lease agreement.

"If we find any consumer's rights are being violated, we will take action," she said.

Miller did not return multiple phone calls Friday requesting a comment and Crazy Water Hotel manager Juan Guardado could not be reached.

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