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Addict dies under care of fake Chicago mental-health counselor

October 16, 2017, Chicago, IL — Chase Beh had just turned 20 when his desperate mother placed him in intensive therapy with a counselor she hoped would rescue him from longtime substance abuse and mental health issues.

What his mother didn’t know was that the counselor, Kimberly Even, was a fraud. Not only was Even unlicensed, she’d been repeatedly warned by the professional organization that sets standards for drug counselors to stop claiming she was certified, federal court records show. The state regulatory agency that issues licenses was also investigating her credentials.

Beh, meanwhile, didn’t respond to the treatment Even gave him and quickly relapsed, according to federal prosecutors. An employee at the North Shore Adolescent Recovery Center warned Even that Beh’s addictions were dangerous and needed full-time impatient attention, but Even ignored him, prosecutors said.

Weeks later, while still under Even’s care, Beh died of a heroin overdose.

Calling the case “odd and disturbing,” U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer on Monday sentenced Even to two years in federal prison for illegally collecting more than $230,000 in insurance payments stemming from the treatment of 70 patients at her Northfield clinic from 2008 to 2011, mostly vulnerable teenagers and young adults like Beh who were struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.

In rebuffing a defense request for probation, Pallmeyer noted that Even, who has a history of fraud convictions going back decades, continued seeing patients for nearly two years after she was fined $10,000 by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and ordered to cease and desist calling herself a licensed counselor.

Before the sentence was handed down, Even, 53, issued a tearful apology to the court, saying she’s since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that she’s been doing everything she can to “be a better person.”

“I live a very simple life,” said Even, talking so fast that at one point she had to stop and apologize to the judge. “I only go two places, to therapy and to the grocery store. … I feel really bad, and I am truly sorry.”

While Even acknowledged she was operating without a license, she said she’d studied to be a counselor and was simply “in a hurry to open a treatment center” of her own.

“I did it too quickly, and I made a lot of mistakes,” Even said through sobs.

Even, who pleaded guilty in July to one count of health care fraud, was featured in a front-page Tribune article in January 2012 detailing her troubles and the connection to Beh’s tragic death.

“I can't imagine how she could have been in practice and no one looked into her credentials," Beh’s mother, Christine, told the Tribune in 2012. "I think what she did was unconscionable. It's a betrayal that I just think is unbelievable."

The federal charges, filed in December 2015, laid out a brazen fraud scheme, alleging that Even had maintained she was a certified drug counselor in the progress reports she sent judges and court personnel overseeing court-ordered drug treatment of her patients.

Not even Beh’s 2009 overdose gave her pause, according to prosecutors. After the state began moving to revoke her facility's license in January 2010, Even continued to fraudulently bill insurance companies, claiming she was providing licensed care, prosecutors said.

Her license was finally revoked in December 2010, and the state closed her clinic after the Department of Human Services found numerous rules violations, including a lack of a required medical director. The department also determined that Even misrepresented her credentials and forged documents.

In 2011, Even was charged with forgery in Cook County criminal court for stealing $16,000 in reimbursement checks from insurance companies off the kitchen table of a patient who was in her care and later cashing them.

"I know what you are," Judge Garritt Howard said in 2013, when he sentenced Even to five years in state prison for that case. “You are a common thief."

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, asked Pallmeyer to sentence Even to three years in prison on the current charges. In a recent court filing, prosecutors said Even’s long history of fraud includes a 1992 conviction in Cook County for stealing a neighbor’s credit card and a 2002 conviction in DuPage County for defrauding a KinderCare program where she worked.

In 2003, Even was arrested for allegedly using the credit card of another parent in a school hockey league to pay off a personal debt, prosecutors said. That case was dismissed after Even was terminated from her role with the league. She also faces charges brought in Utah in 2011 alleging she also falsified her credentials to obtain work at a substance abuse center there, according to prosecutors.

But it was her fraud as a youth counselor that was most egregious, prosecutors said. By lying about her credentials, she not only provided improper treatment but kept her patients from seeking help from other qualified counselors — a harm that “is impossible to quantify,” according to prosecutors.

“She put her patients at risk,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker told the judge Monday. “These are people who needed treatment, who were at a horrible point in their life,”

Source: Chicago Tribune

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