The state Department of Public Health has found three members of its own Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the panel charged with regulating and disciplining chiropractors in Connecticut, in violation of a state law intended to protect the public.
DPH Spokesman William Gerrish confirmed that the department is investigating Drs. Michelle Imossi, Sean Robotham and Paul Powers.
He said that the department, acting on a tip by the Victims of Chiropractic Abuse (VOCA), opened petitions to begin investigations of the three board members in February 2010 for improperly identifying their practices.
Later that year, the department found them in violation the law. In a September 2010 letter to Janet Levy, VOCA co-founder, the department said the board members were told they were not in compliance with state law and needed to submit corrective action plans to the DPH.
It began in December 2006, when VOCA, a grassroots organization dedicated to “promoting awareness of chiropractic risks through advocacy and legislation,” sent a letter to the DPH stating that it had identified 458 chiropractors in Connecticut in violation of the use-of-name statute.
The law states that “No person shall practice as a chiropractor under any name other than the name of the chiropractor actually owning the practice or a corporate name containing the name or names of such chiropractors.” In other words, it’s not enough to identify a practice as, say, the “Connecticut Neck Therapy Center.” The chiropractors’ names must also be included.
“It’s was easy,” said Britt Harwe, VOCA co-founder, in describing how her group identified the chiropractors it suspected of non-compliance. “We opened the yellow pages and went down the list. If we found violations, we drove to their place of business to see if there were any more.”
In July 2009, VOCA sent a letter to the office of then-Governor M. Jodi Rell with information about four members of the Board of Chiropractic Examiners it claimed were in violation of state statutes. Then, in September 2010, VOCA received the response from the DPH confirming that three of the board members were non-compliant; the fourth met the statutory requirements.
Contacted at his Rocky Hill office, Paul Powers declined to comment on DPH’s findings. The other two board members, Michelle Imossi, whose office is in Berlin, and Sean Robotham, who practices in Bloomfield, didn’t respond to phone messages or e-mails requesting comment.
“People might think it’s a petty thing,” said Harwe, who suffered a stroke after visiting a chiropractor in 1993, “but then why is the statute there in the first place? Somebody thought it was important. It used to be enforced in the past, and it’s enforced in other states, so why isn’t it taken seriously here?”
Gerrish said the DPH is “thorough and resolute in its investigation and prosecution of complaints against all licensed health care providers.” He added that the Board of Chiropractic Examiners is responsible for disciplining chiropractors.
The DPH’s investigation comes as the state’s chiropractic association is pushing a bill through the General Assembly that could make the whole issue moot. The proposed legislation, which has been unanimously approved by the legislature’s Public Health Committee, would eliminate the requirement that a practice name contain the name or names of the chiropractors owning the practice. It would continue to require that licensed chiropractors exhibit their names at the business entrance.
Gina Carucci, president of the Connecticut Chiropractic Association, who testified on behalf of the bill, said the proposed changes “will more accurately reflect the many multidisciplinary practices that exist.” She added that the word “chiropractic” will still be required along with “doctor” on the chiropractor’s business entrance.
Jon Crane, who testified on behalf of VOCA, said of the proposed bill, “Those who are supposed to enforce the law have been breaking it, and their answer is to simply change the law.”
Jean Rexford, executive director of the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety, who is on the Connecticut Board of Chiropractic Examiners, was surprised and disappointed that the health committee approved the bill. “The move nationally with health care is toward transparency,” she said, “so people should call themselves what they are.”
VOCA has also filed a lawsuit against two chiropractic associations, the Connecticut Chiropractic Association and the Connecticut Chiropractic Council. The lawsuit, filed last June, charges, in part, that chiropractors don’t adequately inform patients about the risks associated with certain neck adjustments. Chiropractors counter that the risks are miniscule and haven’t been proven.
“Identifying your practice and giving patients information about risks, I see it as part and parcel of the same issue,” said Crane. “Members of the public should be given the information they need to make informed decisions about their health care.”