Nonprofit at center of kickback scheme saw huge growth in state contracts in recent years | Arkansas Blog

Nonprofit at center of kickback scheme saw huge growth in state contracts in recent years

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RUSTY CRANFORD
  • RUSTY CRANFORD
Doug Thompson at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, whose reporting has driven the unfolding story of corruption involving nonprofit provider Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., outlined the extent of the company's business with the state Department of Human Services in Sunday's newspaper.

The big takeaway: The past several years have been very good for PFH's business in Arkansas. The company has doubled its number of service sites in the state since 2011 and now has contracts with DHS worth $28 million. During that time period, some PFH executives were allegedly stealing public funds and illegally lobbying public officials.

Governor Hutchinson and DHS are closely monitoring the provider's activities, a spokesperson for the governor told Thompson. But PFH delivers necessary services in many locations around Arkansas and can't easily be replaced.

Preferred Family Healthcare is a Springdale, Missouri based nonprofit that provides mental and behavioral health care, substance abuse treatment and other services in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. The feds have brought charges against three former PFH lobbyists accused of conspiring with PFH executives to embezzle money and lobby state officials in violation of laws prohibiting such activities by nonprofits that receive public funds. One of those indicted is former Democratic state representative Eddie Cooper, who in February pleaded guilty to conspiring with PFH executives. Another is Rusty Cranford, a lobbyist implicated in a separate corruption case involving former Republican legislators Jon Wood and Michah Neal, among others. Cranford is also accused of plotting to arrange the murder of the third PFH lobbyist, a Pennsylvania-based consultant named D.A. Jones.

Thompson's latest story details the growth in public funds enjoyed by Preferred Family Healthcare over the last 5-7 years and contains several startling figures. PFH saw its Arkansas Medicaid revenue grow from about $23 million in 2011 to about $33 million in 2016. The company also received public money from other state and federal sources, and Thompson found that amount grew by a factor of 20 over a five-year period:
Payments to Preferred Family from non-Medicaid state accounts totaled $469,024 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, Department of Finance and Administration records show. The payments grew to $9.66 million in fiscal 2017.
Here's a list of Preferred Family Healthcare locations in Arkansas.



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