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Top Arkansas psychiatrist accused of keeping patients against their will in huge Medicaid scam: ‘Like a prison’

A leading Arkansas psychiatrist is being investigated for falsely holding potentially hundreds of people in a giant Medicaid scam — with video footage showing him touring hospital hallways without spending any time with patients.

Dr. Brian Hyatt, 50, is under investigation by state and federal authorities — and facing lawsuits from at least 26 patients who say they were kept against their will, sometimes for weeks, according to NBC News.

Some patients even got court orders to get freed by sheriff’s deputies, with one caught on an officer’s bodycam telling him: “Oh my gosh. You saved my life.”

“It was as if I was in a prison,” mom of three Shannon Williams, 52, told NBC News of being held for five days while denying she was suicidal and begging for release.

“All I saw of Dr. Hyatt was the back of his head in the hallway. I never even saw his face,” said Williams, who is herself a nurse.

“It was like a nightmare. If I cried, then I was again threatened with more time,” she said. “I was terrified.”

Hyatt quit as chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board in late May after Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents executed a search warrant at his private practice, the report said.

He was also “abruptly terminated” from Northwest Medical Center in Springdale, where he’d been the medical director of the behavioral health unit since January 2018, tripling the number of beds to 75.

The hospital agreed in April to pay $1.1 million in a settlement with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office for failing to provide sufficient documentation justifying the hospitalization of 246 patients.

AG Tim Griffin’s office has accused Hyatt of running an insurance scam, claiming to treat patients he rarely saw and then billing Medicaid at “the highest severity code on every patient.”

According to one search warrant affidavit, Medicaid paid out more than $800,000 to Hyatt’s facility from January 2019 to June 2022, dwarfing those of other Arkansas psychiatrists.

“Dr. Hyatt is a clear outlier, and his claims are so high they skew the averages on certain codes for the entire Medicaid program in Arkansas,” the affidavit says, according to NBC.

Investigators reviewed 45 days of surveillance footage from the hospital — during which Hyatt interacted with a patient only 17 times, for a total of less than 10 minutes, according to a report by the AG.

“Dr. Hyatt is a clear outlier, and his claims are so high they skew the averages on certain codes for the entire Medicaid program in Arkansas,” the affidavit says, according to NBC.

Charlie Robbins, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas, said the execution of its own search warrant was “an important step in any lengthy, ongoing investigation.”

At least 26 people are suing him, alleging that they were held against their will in his unit for days and sometimes weeks, with a lawyer in the case saying he expects more to come forward.

“I think that they were running a scheme to hold people as long as possible, to bill their insurance as long as possible before kicking them out the door, and then filling the bed with someone else,” attorney Aaron Cash told NBC News.

Hyatt has not been charged and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

When he quit as chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board, he said he was “not resigning because of any wrongdoing on my part but so that the Board may continue its important work without delay or distraction.”

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