Health Care

Psychiatrist accused of sex with Overland Park patients still practices in Missouri

Brian Lahey continues to practice psychiatry in Missouri after the Kansas medical board suspended his license in that state for drug use while investigating allegations he had sex with patients.
Brian Lahey continues to practice psychiatry in Missouri after the Kansas medical board suspended his license in that state for drug use while investigating allegations he had sex with patients. Johnson County Sheriff's Office

A former Overland Park psychiatrist continues to practice in Missouri after being suspended in Kansas and facing an investigation by the state medical board.

The Kansas Board of Healing Arts suspended Brian Patrick Lahey’s license in July because of drug use, while it was also looking into allegations that he had sex with patients and improperly prescribed opioids and other controlled substances.

The reasons for the suspension were redacted in the board’s public documents. But un-redacted documents provided to The Star this month show that the board suspended him for testing positive for marijuana and amphetamines during drug screenings he had to take because he violated a protection order granted to his ex-wife. The documents also show that in June the board launched an investigation into the allegations of sexual impropriety and dangerous prescribing.

Lahey, 42, denied those allegations in written responses he filed as part of the investigation.

Kathleen Selzler Lippert, the board’s executive director, declined to say whether that investigation is ongoing, but said Lahey’s Kansas license remains suspended. She also said his suspension has been reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal government database of doctor information, and the Federation of State Medical Boards, a nonprofit organization.

But Lahey remains fully licensed in Missouri.

Lori Croy, a spokeswoman for that state’s medical board, declined to say why it hadn’t taken any action on the drug-related suspension, or whether it was aware of the other allegations.

“The only information I am able to provide you at this time is that Dr. Lahey’s Missouri license is active and expires on January 31, 2020,” Croy said via email. “There is no public discipline on his (Missouri) license.”

Lahey didn’t respond to a phone message from The Star. His attorney, Nancy Crawford, declined to comment.

With the nation’s patchwork of state medical boards, it’s easy for disciplinary actions to go unnoticed in other states. That’s particularly a problem in metro areas that straddle two states, like Kansas City.

Lahey left his Overland Park practice at the end of July. And he is no longer affiliated with Northwest Medical Center, about 90 minutes north of Kansas City in Albany, Mo., an employee there said. But he is seeing patients at a nearby physician’s office. A message left at that office was not returned.

Johnson County records show that Lahey was charged with violating his ex-wife’s protection order in 2017. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, but the sentence was suspended.

According to the state documents provided to The Star, Lahey told Kansas medical board investigators he got into a shouting match with his ex-wife at her place of work, but didn’t know that was a violation of the protection order because he thought it only restricted him from going to her house.

After his arrest, he was released on bond but had to submit to drug testing. Twelve times over the course of eight months he tested positive for cannabis and amphetamines — which he said was from prescription Adderall. According to the Kansas medical board, Lahey “used marijuana while on-duty and actively working.”

The board suspended him for that, while it was also investigating allegations of misconduct with a patient who later became his co-worker.

According to complaints filed by a social worker, the patient’s sister and a friend, Lahey met the woman while treating her 10-year-old son. He later began treating her for mental health issues related to her father’s recent death and her husband’s serious illness. The relationship eventually became sexual, though accounts differ as to when.

According to the complaints, Lahey hired the woman to work in his office and prescribed her opioid painkillers “to calm her down.” Multiple complaints say the woman overdosed on the pills and had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room. She survived.

Lahey told investigators that he was no longer serving as the woman’s psychiatrist when they became romantically involved, but he “occasionally refilled her prescriptions when there was a lapse in followup with her prescriber.”

Lahey was also accused of having sexual relationships with two other female patients. He told investigators that he never had a romantic relationship with one of them and that nothing sexual happened with the other “while existing as my patient.”

He said he had prescribed opioids in the past for patients he was seeing for mental health conditions like bipolar disorder or acute anxiety, but it was always done for legitimate clinical reasons. Several patients, he said, were already dependent on the drugs when they came to see him.

“In 2010, I began treating patients in private practice for opiate dependence,” Lahey wrote. “I also have a handful of patients for whom I have been managing their chronic pain (from chronic conditions) with opiates — without significant dose escalation or complication.”

A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation last year found at least 500 physicians nationwide who had been disciplined in one state but were practicing with a clean record in another for a variety of reasons. State medical boards aren’t always aware of allegations elsewhere, and even when they are, they can still take months or even years to act.

Chester Stone, an Emporia doctor whose Kansas license was revoked in July for having sex with a patient, still had a license to practice in Missouri until last month, when he voluntarily surrendered it.

Doctors are usually required to report disciplinary actions from other states when they apply to have their licenses renewed, but they don’t always do it.

In March 2018, the Missouri Board of Healing Arts publicly reprimanded psychiatrist Everette Sitzman for writing on his 2016-2017 renewal application that he had not been disciplined by any other state since his previous renewal, even though he had been censured and fined $500 in Kansas less than a year earlier.

The Kansas board had fined Sitzman for losing his clinical privileges at Shawnee Mission Medical Center because of missed appointments, delays in writing patient notes and errors in documenting patient medications.

The Federation of State Medical Boards maintains a website, DocInfo.org, allowing patients to search every state where their doctors are licensed and find out if they’ve been disciplined.

But there’s a lag time in updating the site, and state medical boards don’t have the manpower to search all of their thousands of doctors regularly.

The National Practitioner Data Bank has a “continuous query” feature that allows state medical boards to automatically check for new disciplinary actions against their doctors in other states every 24 hours. But the Journal-Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation found that few states use it.

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Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.

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