BONITA SPRINGS — A month after a doctor was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges in Jacksonville and then fired from a Bonita Springs pain clinic, community concern hasn't waned.
Lee County sheriff's deputies continue to patrol the parking lot of Southwest Florida Medical Solutions and neighboring offices in the Sunshine Professional Center on Bonita Beach Road, keeping an eye on the pain clinic's patients and practices.
But the clinic's owners and manager say they have nothing to hide.
Lee deputies have checked the area around the parking lot at 9240 Bonita Beach Road a dozen times in the past month, but no arrests have been made.
In late October, the Daily News reported that in the prior 10 months, there had been at least 18 drug-related arrests and more than 550 checks of the parking lot by Lee deputies. The newspaper report came days after a doctor who worked part-time at the clinic was indicted in Jacksonville in a drug conspiracy case.
"As far as we're concerned, nothing has changed," Tony Schall, spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff's Office, said of the past month.
Neighbors say they still see patients from the clinic loitering.
"The last (Daily News) article didn't shut them down, but it increased my patients' concern," said Dr. Mark Montgomery, an ear nose and throat doctor whose office is in the same building as the pain management clinic.
Clinic owners and managers, who had declined interviews for prior Daily News stories, agreed to talk this past week.
Kristen Touhey, one of the clinic's owners, said Dr. Anthony Posca was terminated the day the Jacksonville indictment was released in mid-October.
"The indictment doesn't necessarily mean that he is guilty," Touhey said. "But, it would not be good for our practice."
Touhey said she was shocked to learn of Posca's questionable past.
"But, if you do something wrong, you're going to get in trouble for it," she said.
Neither Posca nor one of his attorneys, Bernard Cassidy, was available for comment on the termination of Posca by the Bonita Springs clinic.
Touhey added that other than bad press, Posca's indictment hasn't negatively affected the business.
Posca — along with four other Jacksonville-based physicians, an owner of three Jacksonville pain clinics and several employees — face charges alleging they ran a multimillion-dollar pill-mill operation. Overall, the case alleges drug conspiracy, aiding and abetting the distribution of Oxycodone resulting in death and money laundering from December 2009 to July 2010.
Posca joined the Bonita Springs clinic in July of this year.
Read the documents
To read the indictment, click on documents below.
"Nothing has changed," the clinic's office manager, Eric Holland, said about Posca no longer being at the clinic since the indictment.
"We're still a reputable business. I have a great relationship with (Lee sheriff's) Capt. (Kathy) Rairden," Holland said.
"We will always welcome law enforcement in any one of our parking lots," added Touhey, alluding to other clinics, including in Miami, Orlando, Port Charlotte and Fort Myers. "They're here to protect the safety and well-being of the citizens."
Though Rairden and Holland exchanged emails earlier this year in which Holland referred to the patrolling as "harassment," Touhey said the clinic operators have maintained an excellent relationship with the Lee Sheriff's Office.
Touhey confirmed that the clinic has hired a man to stand either at the entrance of the office building or at the entrance to the clinic.
Montgomery said he has seen the man, standing outside the office building's main doors.
"We still call (deputies) all the time," Montgomery said. "Patients call me and ask, 'is it safe?'"
Holland said other tenants of the complex are judging the clinic's patients, who are "blue-collar workers," by their looks.
"They're lower-income guys," he said. "Doesn't mean they don't have the right to see a doctor."
Holland noted that health officials have gone through the clinic and approved its operation.
Read the documents
In April, the Southwest Florida Medical Solutions website touted a treatment using "opiod therapy" and said medications were dispensed at the clinic, which now can't be done under a new Florida law. By June, the language was changed on the type of treatment provided and the reference was removed to dispensing medications there. To compare the two versions of its website, click on documents below.
"Anything we do in here is regulated, controlled," Holland said. "Anything in the beginning is a misunderstanding because our patients were being profiled by the neighbors."
Touhey said the clinic and its owners are in full compliance with the law.
" I have seven AHCA (Agency for Health Care Administration) licensed clinics," Touhey said of the certification necessary for a non-physician-owned medical center.
Also, the physicians at Southwest Florida Medical Solutions, despite their short tenure at the clinic, are operating under medical licenses and Drug Enforcement Agency licenses. The DEA license is required to prescribe controlled substances, like Oxycodone.Eventually, the clinic intends to add other pain management services, such as massage therapy, Touhey said, but currently only offers medication for treatment. She added that the other locations, however, do offer other services such as massage therapy, hydro therapy, acupuncture and trigger-point therapy — a localized medicinal treatment injected into the site of the pain.
"We do prescribe narcotics," said Dr. Heather Argyle, a 30-year veteran OB/GYN who works at the pain clinic. "We heavily encourage our patients to take the non-narcotic medications, and we also encourage them to do massage and physical therapies. Every patient that comes here gets a booklet on stretching exercises."
The city of Bonita Springs approved the license for the clinic as a medical practice, but City Attorney Audrey Vance lauds the law enforcement presence.
"Anything done as far as a federal indictment, state indictment, or city enforcement that protects citizens and property, we are thrilled," Vance said.