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Home Care Accrediting Agency Regroups After Scandal

Kate Traynor

The Community Health Accreditation Program Inc. (CHAP) is conducting business as usual despite the recent removal of its director, said Theresa S. Ayer, M.S., R.N., the organization's newly appointed president and chief executive officer (CEO).

Earlier this month, a New York state judge granted an injunction that stripped authority from CHAP CEO Melvin Lev, a financier who had assumed control of the nonprofit organization last February. Lev is alleged to have misappropriated more than $120,000 from CHAP during the year that he controlled the organization.

According to an affidavit filed by the New York state Office of the Attorney General, Lev spent $12,200 of CHAP funds to pay for his wife's birthday party last June. Lev is also alleged to have used CHAP funds to pay for personal credit-card bills, car payments, and invitations and stationery for a son's wedding. The affidavit names Lev, two of his other sons, and his wife as defendants in the case, which will be heard by the state's supreme court.

The affidavit also alleges that, because of Lev's mismanagement, some of CHAP's "fundamental activities" were not done adequately. According to the affidavit, a backlog of 60 agencies were waiting this past January for CHAP to perform accreditation services.

Ayer said she and fellow members of the executive committee of CHAP's board of directors first acted on their suspicions about the Lev family last November.

"Once this came to our attention and we realized what was going on," Ayer said, "we did a little soul-searching and decided that we needed an attorney to help guide us through this process." On the lawyer's advice, she said, CHAP began working with the state attorney general's office to address the situation.

Ayer said it is her understanding that CHAP's deeming authority under Medicare for accreditation of hospice and home care organizations remains unaffected by the recent events. She said CHAP notified the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about the situation March 1, the same day the judge issued a temporary restraining order against the Levs.

Mark Forstneger, media relations specialist for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, confirmed by e-mail that his organization does not currently plan to alter its cooperative accreditation agreement with CHAP.

Ayer, a former CHAP president, said she had not expected to serve the organization in that role again. But her previous experience has made her able "to step back in and make sure there were no interruptions in how things were done."

Said Ayer: "The CHAP board of directors has worked very hard to assure that the accreditation operations were untouched by these other actions....As far as CHAP's vision is concerned, we're still moving down the same path [as before Lev's ownership]."