The FBI, in conjunction with local law enforcement, conducted a raid at the methadone clinic in the Mountain View Plaza on Pittsburgh Road in North Union Township Thursday morning, though the reason for the investigation has not been released.
Greg Heeb, FBI spokesman, confirmed that a federal search warrant was executed as part of an FBI-led investigation. While Heeb said the warrant is for 1023 Pittsburgh Road, he would not specify which of the businesses in the plaza authorities were targeting.
While plaza includes various businesses, authorities were converged upon the upper level location of Addiction Specialists, Inc. (ASI), a methadone clinic in the plaza, and throughout the day, continued removing various items from the facility.
David J. Hickton, U.S. attorney for the western district of Pennsylvania, said in addition to the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General; state attorney general’s office and Fayette County district attorney’s office were involved in the raid.
Several private vehicles of those already at the plaza were delayed in leaving early Thursday. Law enforcement officials checked those cars, which were slowly allowed to depart. As other vehicles tried to enter the plaza, police directed drivers to pull over to the side of the road, and recorded the license plate numbers of those vehicles.
The clinic was founded in 1999, and Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau records list Rosalind Sugarmann is listed as the president. The clinic has had numerous violations since 2006, according to records from the state's Division of Drug and Alcohol Program Licensure. ASI currently has provisional licenses through the state.
According to department spokesman Leon Czikowsky, provisional licenses are temporary and reflect that a clinic is "not fully up to standard, but close enough to be operational." He said these are issued under the premise that the clinic will improve its grade.
The violations contend that ASI was operating without an occupancy license for a separate building located behind the strip mall location. The report says the building holds two group rooms, two counseling offices, a utility room, two bathrooms and a kitchenette. A listed "plan of correction" says an occupancy permit would be faxed in June.
The department completed 42 health surveys of the clinic since 2006, most of which recorded multiple failures. Six patients died during treatment since a survey in March 2011, according to department records. These deaths were not properly documented or reported to the department, according to the report. A seventh patient was involved in a car accident in 2011, according to the report.
A newspaper article from 2011 details a crash involving a man who was charged after leaving the methadone clinic. Police reported he was nearly incomprehensible. He hit two vehicles and admitted he was under the influence of drugs. Police found unlabeled prescription pills in his pocket, they said.
The most recent death reported was in 2014. The patient was admitted May 30, 2014 and discharged at the time of his death Oct. 24, 2014, according to the report. The patient was listed as receiving buprenorphine from the clinic, an medication used to treat opioid addiction.
Clinics are required to report deaths with an "unusual incident" form within 72 hours.
Other ongoing reported failures include improperly recording patient treatment and rehabilitation programs, improper drug testing of patients, improper supervision and training of staff, hiring underqualified staff and excessive caseloads. State officials also found that some patients' methadone doses were not documented.
The most recent health survey published on the department website was completed Aug. 12. Reports take 41 days to be published online.
Sugarmann could not be reached for comment. An automated message at Addiction Specialists, Inc. directed patients to go to their local emergency room for their dose of methadone.
Josh Krysak, Uniontown Hospital's community relations coordinator, said as of 11:10 a.m., the hospital had received 40 patients in the emergency department. Those patients were referred there by federal authorities to receive drug treatment, Krysak said.
"Our medical staff is evaluating each case and working in conjunction with other Fayette County agencies to best handle this situation," he said. "The hospital was not made aware that (the raid) was going to happen, or that patients were to be directed to our facility for care as a result."
It is unclear if the raid will shutter the clinic, or what plans are currently in place for patients there.