State Doctor Suspended for Alleged Drug Use - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

State Doctor Suspended for Alleged Drug Use

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The Montana Board of Medical Examiners has suspended the license of the medical director of a state-run chemical dependency center due to suspicions he may have illegally used drugs — despite a pair of apparently negative drug tests.

Mark Jay Catalanello of Warm Springs has been the part-time medical director of the Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte, as well as a full-time staff physician — performing general medical services — at Montana State Hospital, the state’s main in-patient mental health facility, in Warm Springs.

A state web page lists his pay at about $90 per hour.

DPPHS spokesman Jon Ebelt said Friday that Catalanello was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday. He said Catalanello has been at MSH for about seven years, with part-time duties at MCDC for about two years.

A notice of proposed action filed by the board Friday also says Catalanello had his license suspended in 2004 due to a chemical dependency issue. It was reinstated in 2007.

According to the board, the Montana Physicians Assistance Program began receiving reports in August of delinquent charting, a disheveled appearance and other concerns about Catalanello. But a toxicology report August 10 was negative.

At an MPAP retreat September 11-13, a housekeeper found a cosmetic bag containing apparent illegal drugs in a room that Catalanello and his girlfriend had occupied. 

Catalanello passed another drug test Sept. 21, although the board says that may not have been a valid test, because the collection of the sample for testing was not monitored. The following day Catalanello denied drug use but said his girlfriend, a former drug user, had relapsed and was using marijuana and hydrocodone.

Catalanello did not report for duty at MCDC when called by an MCDC official on Sept. 25, and “slurred his speech and did not respond with coherent thoughts,” according to the board.

That MCDC official also said Catalanello was behind on many of his patient charts.

In a Sept. 28 meeting with Dr. Michael Ramirez, clinical coordinator of MPAP, Catalanello admitted that working at both MCDC and MSH is stressful, but said his work was satisfactory, according to the board report.

He said he might test positive for marijuana use if he took another test, because his girlfriend regularly smoked in his presence.

He refused another drug test at the time, according to the board.

A notice of proposed action filed by the board Friday says Catalanello did not participate in an emergency meeting Tuesday of the board’s Screening Panel, despite being notified of it. The panel said it was suspending his license because of “unrebutted evidence” he may have practiced medicine while under the influence of drugs; failed to report for duty; and refused a reasonable request by MPAP for a drug test; “and he has failed to keep current on charting in his work with a particularly vulnerable patient population.

Catalanello has 20 days to request a hearing in the matter.

Catalanello could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon and did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

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