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21 May 2019

Shoshana Walter, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting

Drug rehab faces investigations into labor practices and Medicaid fraud

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State officials in Texas and Louisiana have launched multiple probes into the Cenikor Foundation following an investigation by Reveal that found the prominent drug rehab has turned patients into an unpaid labor force for private companies. Reveal... found that the nonprofit has sent thousands of patients to work without pay at hundreds of for-profit companies over the years – including Exxon, Shell and Walmart – in likely violation of federal labor law... In addition to the government investigations, former patients are suing the program for back wages in four separate lawsuits, and two of Cenikor’s biggest work contracts have stopped using workers from the program... Brand Industrial Services, which previously dispatched Cenikor patients to work at oil refineries and chemical plants, also has stopped using workers from the program. “It is our expectation that our suppliers comply with all applicable laws and regulations,” said spokeswoman Karla Cuculi. “We are currently evaluating the use of Cenikor as a temporary labor source.”... In addition to long work days, many also frequently worked in unsafe conditions and were injured on the job.

... In a statement provided to Reveal, Cenikor said it follows state regulations. The program declined to comment on the business contracts, investigations or lawsuits... In Texas, the Health and Human Services Commission is investigating allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation at Cenikor, as well as worker injuries... The Louisiana Workforce Commission, which enforces labor law in the state, is “conducting a full investigation into this matter,” a spokesman said.