Ted Suhl, owner of the controversial treatment center for juveniles The Lord’s Ranch, is the person referred to as “Person C” in court documents in the bribery case of former Department of Human Services Deputy Director Steven Jones.
Jones, 49, also a former state representative, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy and bribery charges that he solicited and received $5,000 in cash as well as free meals from owners of mental health facilities under contract with DHS from April 2007 to July 2013. “Person C” provided cash to Jones through intermediaries, according to documents on file in federal court. In return, Jones provided he provided official assistance, including providing internal DHS information about businesses owned by “Person C,” according to the FBI.
Suhl is a controversial figure who, during the Huckabee administration, sat on the board that regulated businesses like The Lord’s Ranch and whose “Bible-based” provision of mental health services to children at the Warm Springs facility was alleged to have included physical abuse. Suhl and The Lord’s Ranch were the subject of an investigative report published in the Times in 2009.
In an email today, DHS spokesman Amy Webb confirmed the identity of “Person C”:
DHS worked Friday to verify the name of the individual identified as “Person C” in the criminal information issued late Thursday afternoon against former Deputy Director Steven Jones. We have determined that Person C is Ted Suhl, who owns behavioral health companies that provide inpatient services to youth and outpatient services to youth and adults in Arkansas. We have not determined whether the allegations specific to Mr. Suhl are true. However, federal and state law authorizes us to suspend or exclude a provider engaging in the alleged conduct described in the federal court filings, and we will pursue all appropriate actions to protect the integrity of the Medicaid program.
If a provider is suspended or excluded, a transition period would be needed to ensure Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries do not go without needed care. During that time, DHS would identify other providers who offer both residential and outpatient behavioral health services and would assist in transitioning beneficiaries.
If appropriate, DHS also would refer the provider to the Office of Medicaid Inspector General for further investigation.
All affected Medicaid beneficiaries and providers will be notified of any action taken DHS and what steps are being taken to ensure continued access to care.
Suhl’s company, Maxus, now does business as Arkansas Counseling Associates. Webb said DHS is still working to get a list of all the associated companies and the amounts that these companies received from Medicaid over the last several years.
In 2006, a plane owned by one of Suhl’s company gave Gov. Huckabee, his family and staff a ride to a North Carolina political event. (Huckabee later paid for the use of the plane.) That year, Suhl received $8.5 million in Medicald dollars.
Gov. Beebe did not reappoint Suhl to the Child Welfare Agency Review Board. In 2009, DHS found deficiences in Suhl-owned businesses in Dumas and Benton and fined the company $134,714.