APOLLO COUNSELING: We Have A Problem, Again

Apollo Counseling and Resource Center, an agency that provides in-home services for people with intellectual disabilities, is back in the news.   Medicaid is cutting off Apollo, but not before it used up hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars.

They came forward, one by one, and they’re still coming forward.  In the last two years, 13 former Apollo employees have filed suit, claiming they’re owed a total of more than $37,000 in back wages.

Zackery Meade quit in March.

“I was lucky enough to get a job right off the bat,” says Meade.

He is lucky.  Apollo shut its doors last month, after losing its Medicaid certification.

“It means that Medicaid will no longer pay, reimburse Apollo for services it does on behalf of Medicaid members,” says Roger Munns, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Services.

In a letter dated April 6th, DHS cited Apollo for repeatedly “failing to ensure that Iowa Medicaid members received the quality services they deserve.”  Specifically, DHS cited Apollo for failure to implement required corrective action, failure to provide requested information and refusal to allow a site visit.

“There have been a number of complaints, which have been investigated,” says Munns.  He adds, any one of those violations would be enough to shut down Apollo.

“The department feels it is on strong ground to take the action it has taken.”

But why did it take so long?  It’s been a year since parents and guardians of Apollo clients told us their loved ones weren’t receiving adequate care.

Munns says Medicaid attempts to give everyone a chance.

In its desertification letter, Iowa Medicaid states, “Apollo was provided technical assistance over the course of several months in an effort to develop corrective action plans.”

Only two other, similar agencies were shut down last year:  Healing Harvest Ministries out of Waterloo, which received more than $122,000 in Medicaid funding and Unity Services and Enterprise in Sioux City, which received about $71,000.

Erin McNamara, the woman who runs Apollo, declined our invitation to an interview and directed us to her attorney, who sent us a statement that, in part reads:  “While Apollo admits to some of the technical violations alleged, the Department cannot point to a single instance in which any of the compliance issues resulted in diminished quality of care to Apollo’s clients.  For this reason, Apollo feels the punishment is grossly disproportionate.”

But why couldn’t Apollo pay its employees?  Meade says McNamara told him the State wasn’t paying her.  It’s true.  The State withheld $8,000 in payments to Apollo while investigating allegations of fraud last year.  Apollo’s attorney says the agency still hasn’t received that money, even though a judge ruled in Apollo’s favor.

But Apollo did receive more than $355,000 in Medicaid funds last year.  That’s on top of the more than $422,000 paid out the year before.

“It’s a lot of money,” says Meade.  “There’s part of me that says what could have possibly happened.”

Read e-mail exchange between Iowa Attorney General’s Office and attorney for Apollo Counseling here.

Read e-mail from Apollo Counseling attorney asking about the suspension of Medicaid payments here.

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