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Connections, officers face drug violations

Connections Community Support Programs and three of its top officers each face more than $30,000 in fines in connection with incomplete paperwork at its drug clinics across the state, and missing drugs at the Millsboro facility.

In a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed April 9, former Chief Executive Officer Catherine Devaney McKay, current CEO William Northey and current Chief Compliance Officer and General Counsel Steven Davis are charged with violating the Controlled Substances Act by negligently failing to keep required documentation of its distribution and dispensing of controlled substances, particularly methadone and buprenorphine used in Connections’ treatment of opioid use disorder. Investigation of several Connections facilities resulted in paperwork violations.

During an inspection and audit in March 2019 of the Millsboro facility, Drug Enforcement Administration agents determined that Connections was unable to provide records identifying the location of more than 244 bottles of methadone liquid and more than 1,100 doses of buprenorphine. Since the 1980s, Connections has provided drug treatment and other services throughout Delaware including downstate facilities in Millsboro, Harrington and Seaford. Connections has received millions of dollars in state funding for drug services, including a $58 million state contract to provide medical and behavioral services to patients in the Department of Correction. The contract was terminated in 2020; McKay retired from her CEO position in 2019.

“As one of the largest providers of substance abuse treatment in Delaware, Connections is well aware of the extent of the opioid crisis in our state,” said U.S. Attorney David Weiss. “By failing for years to properly document their distribution and dispensing of controlled substances, Connections and its executives have shirked their responsibility to ensure that they were not contributing to the crisis by creating an environment in which their own inventory of controlled substances could be diverted for abuse or sale.”

The lawsuit states that Connections has a long history of negligent failure to maintain proper records, in addition to numerous instances in which required records were created after the fact and backdated to make it appear that they had been created at an earlier time. On numerous occasions, the lawsuit states, Connections told the DEA that it was undertaking additional measures to improve its compliance and then failed to do so.

The lawsuit also states that McKay, Northey and Davis, all of whom were corporate officers of Connections, negligently delegated responsibility for compliance with the Controlled Substances Act to individuals they knew were unqualified and ill-suited to those responsibilities, and that they failed to provide adequate training and supervision for those individuals.

Connections and the three officers face two counts of failing to file proper paperwork for the dispensing of drugs, or any paperwork to show that drugs were missing. Each violation carries a civil penalty of up to $15,040.

2019 Millsboro audit

DEA inspections dating back to 2015 at Connections facilities throughout the state had uncovered incomplete paperwork, including the Millsboro facility. But in 2019, the lawsuit states, agents became concerned when they realized large quantities of methadone and buprenorphine were missing.

“Based on their review of the documents maintained and provided by Connections, the methadone inventory at the Millsboro location was short by more than 2.4 million milligrams of methadone, which represented more than 244 missing bottles of methadone liquid,” the lawsuit states.

The missing methodone was more than 14 percent of the total received by the Millsboro facility in the prior year.

There were also 1,139 2mg buprenorphine pills missing, and 51 8mg pills.

“Connections was, for more than a year, unable to determine with certainty what had become of more than 244 bottles of methodone and more than 1,100 buprenorphine tablets,” the lawsuit states.