Tennessee wants to help patients affected by doctor arrests

Published: Apr. 17, 2019 at 11:44 AM EDT
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Tennessee is activating substance abuse resources and statewide call lines to help patients affected by the arrests of doctors and nurses in a crackdown on prescription opioid abuse.

Indictments were unsealed this week charging more than 30 medical professionals in Tennessee with illegally prescribing and distributing millions of painkillers.

According to a news release , TennCare members receiving services from any of the affected clinics can find assistance coordinating care by reaching out to their assigned health plans.

For addiction treatment services, Tennessee's REDLINE operates 24 hours a day at (800) 889-9789. The state also has a 24-hour-a-day crisis line for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis at (855) CRISIS-1 or (855) 274-7471.

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According to a report from CBS news, eight East Tennessee medical professionals were charged in a massive Federal opioid drug takedown that spanned 11 states.

Five doctors, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant, and an office manager were charged in four cases in East Tennessee. Two doctors were charged with health care fraud violations and three charges are related to alleged pill mills.

A press release from the Tennessee Department of Justice identified the those from East Tennessee as:

Tennessee Pain Specialists

- Dr. Steven Mynatt of Knoxville, who is charged with conspiracy to distribute schedule II drugs and two counts of distribution of schedule II drugs.

- Dr. David

who is charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs.

Both Mynatt and Newman were involved with Tennessee Valley Pain Specialists. According to the U.S. District Attorney, both Newman and Mynatt "knowingly, intentionally" and "not for a medical purpose" distributed oxycodone and oxycodone MS contin.

LaFollette Wellness Center

- Dr. Henry Babenco is charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substance, distributing and dispensing controlled substance and money laundering. According to the District Attorney, he moved $35,000 from one bank account to another in October 2018.

- Sharon Naylor, of Jacksboro, who is Tennessee is charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs. Naylor is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

- Gregory Madron, of Jacksboro, who is charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs. Madron, Mynatt and Newman appeared in court on Wednesday.

- Alicia Taylor is charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substance and distributing and dispensing controlled substance. Taylor was a physician's assistant under Babenco's supervision, the District Attorney said.

Babenco, Naylor, Taylor and Madron were all involved with LaFollete Wellness Center. Madron was the center's manager, Naylor was a nurse, Taylor was a physician's assistant and Babenco was a doctor.

No known affiliations

Dr. Harrison Yang is charged with submitting a prescription billed to TennCare that was not medically necessary.

- Dr. Charles Brooks of Maryville who is charged with conspiracy to distribute schedule III, IV and V drugs, and one count of health care fraud where he wrote a blank prescription for another person to fill out and submit, according to the U.S. District Attorney. The substances distributed include suboxone, clonazepam, diazepam and pregabablin. Brooks was arrested a couple of weeks ago and appeared in court.

According to the U.S. District Attorney, all face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine except Yang. Yang faces a maximum of five years and a $250,000 fine.

None of the defendants were affiliated with hospitals, but the office couldn't "provide specific information on their specific affiliations" beyond what the documents have already revealed.

The U.S. District Attorney said there are "no plans to ask for detention" for any of the defendants.

In all, 54 medical professionals received charges from the United States Justice Department related to the illegal distribution of opioids and other narcotics.

"The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region," Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement to CBS News. "But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department's most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division's Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force (ARPO), which began its work in December."