Saturday, October 13, 2001

Auditor seeks
Felix records

The state wants Loveland Academy
to release medical data

By Crystal Kua

State auditor Marion Higa is going to court to force Loveland Academy, which provides educational and mental health services to children covered by the Felix consent decree, to turn over documents.

But an official with Loveland Academy and an attorney for the plaintiffs in the Felix legal case said they are concerned that turning over the student medical records would violate state and federal confidentiality laws.

"Under most circumstances, you wouldn't release confidential records," said Dr. Margaret Koven, Loveland Academy clinical director.

"They cannot produce those records until the statutory provisions are followed," Felix plaintiffs' attorney Shelby Floyd said.

Higa's office is doing much of the leg work for a joint House-Senate Investigative Committee, which is examining costs associated with the state's effort to comply with the consent decree, the federal mandate to improve services to special needs children.

Higa said her office has subpoena powers separate from the committee as well as statutory safeguards for sensitive documents. "We have a separate part of our statute that allows us, my office, to hold our working papers confidential or hold our material confidential."

Higa said she wants to see the progress notes, which detail the progress for about 20 children, kept by Loveland to verify the testimony last week of Dr. Kenneth Gardiner, whose testimony questioned some of Loveland's billing practices.

"We wanted access to the progress notes that were mentioned by Dr. Gardiner because he had testified that the notes ... looked like they've been just cobbled together or it was a cut-and-paste job essentially," Higa said.

Loveland refused to turn over the documents citing ethical and professional standards, so Higa's office issued a subpoena Thursday, Higa said.

Lawyers for Higa filed a motion in state court yesterday to compel the production of the documents, Higa said.

Koven said investigators with Higa's office went to Loveland to examine financial records Monday in preparation for her appearance before the committee this morning. On Wednesday, investigators asked for the clinical records of the patients.

After consulting with national and local psychological associations, Koven said they agreed the documents can't be turned over because of confidentiality laws.

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