The Missouri company ensnared in federal criminal cases at home and in Arkansas announced Monday that it has hired former state Supreme Court Justice Betty Dickey to help oversee its Arkansas operations.
"Betty Dickey has had a distinguished career serving the people of Arkansas," Michael Schwend, president and CEO of PFH, said in a news release. "She is an important addition to our leadership team and we look forward to drawing on her significant experience and expertise in the service to our patients. We are turning a page, and Betty will play key role in that effort."
Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. of Kirkwood, Missouri, operates nearly 50 mental health and behavioral clinics in Arkansas under the names Health Resources of Arkansas and Decision Point. PFH acquired the Arkansas operations in May 2015 when it acquired Alternative Opportunities Inc. of Springfield, Missouri, which used the name Dayspring for some of its clinics.
Federal prosecutors in Missouri have accused multiple PFH executives of embezzling money from the nonprofit, which is largely supported by Medicare and Medicaid. They have elicited guilty pleas from three of them — including former Arkansas state Rep. Eddie Cooper of Melbourne — and indicted another, Rusty Cranford of Rogers, who was both an executive and a lobbyist for PFH.
In his role as lobbyist for PFH, Cranford allegedly steered kickbacks to at least three Arkansas legislators: former Rep. Micah Neal of Springdale, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in January 2017; former state Sen. Jon Woods of Springdale, who is currently on trial for taking kickbacks; and former state Rep. Henry Wilkins IV, who resigned last month as Jefferson County judge after federal prosecutors in Missouri said in open court that he had taken bribes from Cranford.
In her "newly created role," Dickey "will work closely with PFH's Arkansas operations and serve as a liaison for the company's state operations to the executive leadership team," according to the announcement. She will "provide guidance and leadership on operations, compliance and standards adherence. In addition, she will serve as a liaison to communities PFH serves and work with government officials to provide information and accountability."
In the release, Dickey said, "I welcome the opportunity to serve Arkansans again by joining Preferred Family Healthcare to ensure our operational excellence matches the clinical excellence for which we are known."
Dickey served as prosecuting attorney for the 11th District, as Gov. Mike Huckabee's chief legal counsel and was appointed by Huckabee to complete W. H. "Dub" Arnold's term as chief justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court.