Community service suffers from DHS audit and fund freeze

Regional Rehab Director Robby Parman
February 20th, 2020     Community Featured

Tupelo, MS – Investigation continues into the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars from the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). There are charges of millions going for personal use, for services not provided, and for individual drug rehabilitation at a luxury center for a friend of the former MDHS director.

Additionally, a ministry operated by former wrestler Ted DiBiase is being looked into, having received over two million dollars from MDHS.  So far, six have been arrested in the scandal.

An overlooked result of the embezzlement is a freezing of funds that is hurting smaller area agencies that provide vital services. Money intended for the most needy in our state is not going to them.

The Regional Rehab Center in Tupelo is one such case where frozen funds are doing harm.

Since 1955, the center has provided services that now include audiology, dyslexia, early intervention, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy for children and adults.

What makes this more unusual is that the center charges nothing for its services. It does not accept Medicare or private insurance, because they can put limits on treatment that may not be in the best interest of their clients.

That means the center relies heavily on fundraising and allocations.

One such funding source is the Family Resource Center.

The Family Resource Center of Northeast Mississippi, founded in 1998, is a family service center based in Tupelo. As of 2018 they had $20 million in revenue and $6.3 million in assets.

Their purpose is to support and promote healthy families, and they allocate funds for that to other agencies. Regional Rehab Center is one of the agencies it supports.

Regional Rehab Director, Robby Parman, said they were expecting grant money from the Family Resource Center. The funds would be used to hire an audiologist and an occupational therapist.

Now, there is a six-month waiting period for clients to seen an occupational therapist, he said.

The rehab center is important because it can be a last resort for families who have used all their insurance benefits and personal finances. That makes the freezing of funds important enough, but Parman added that clients who have to wait six months may lose progress or even get worse.

“We get a lot of referrals from local occupational and physical therapists,” Parman said.

There are often waiting lists for physical and speech therapy, as well dyslexia. “Dyslexia has a long waiting list as well,” he said. “There’s a lack of resources for dyslexia.”

The center has received two grants from the Family Resource Center in the past two years, enabling Parman to hire five therapists, but more are needed. “The resource center has opened doors for us,” he said.

The family resource center serves 42 counties.

Parman stressed that the freeze is not endangering the present staff, but is hampering needed additions. “These people could make more working anywhere else,” he said. “They do this out of love.”

The Regional Rehab Center itself serves 18 counties in Northeast Mississippi and a small part of western Alabama.

This past year they served 1,485 clients, providing 45,571 services valued at about $2.3 million. By far the largest number of clients come from Lee County, but Pontotoc is second and Union County is a close third.

The next major fundraising event will be the annual Red Rasberry Humanitarian Award Dinner April 23, which will honor Sandy and Kenneth Williams of Corinth.

Other fundraisers include a Kentucky Derby party, golf tourneys, Paul Thorn Day benefit and the annual Celebration of Hope Telethon.

“Our budget is about $1.2 million and the money goes for staff salaries and the building,” he said.

The Regional Rehab Center will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Thursday, Feb. 27, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. to celebrate 10 years of renovations. Included will be tours and refreshments with the public invited.

Former professional wrestler Ted DiBiase, and son Brian DiBiase, are figures in MDHS embezzlement scandal:

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