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Former chairman resigns from Arkansas Medical Board facing scrutiny in state, federal probes

Masks hang from an IV pole at a hospital.
Jenny Kane
Masks hang from an IV pole at a hospital.

Northwest Arkansas psychiatrist Dr. Brian Hyatt resigned from the State Medical Board last week, two months after he stepped down as chairman.

Hyatt’s resignation — confirmed by records obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act — comes as he is under investigation by state and federal authorities.

The scope of the criminal probes is unknown, but court records indicate that investigators in the Arkansas attorney general’s office suspected Hyatt of Medicaid fraud. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas also confirmed this week that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents executed a search warrant at Hyatt’s Rogers office.

Hyatt has not been charged with a crime, and he and his attorneys have not responded to requests for comment since February.

In his resignation letter to the Medical Board, he said he would defend himself against “false allegations.”

“Due to personal matters that have nothing to do with the Board, I believe it is in my best interest — and in the best interest of the Board — to tender my resignation at this time,” Hyatt wrote in the May 16 letter. “I feel that my continued participation in future Board meetings may be a distraction from the Board’s duties and its primary focus, and at this time, I am not able to give the time and attention needed for Board matters.

“I am not resigning because of any wrongdoing on my part but so that the Board may continue its important work without delay or distraction. I will continue to defend myself in the proper forum against the false allegations being made against me.”

The investigations into Hyatt began last year with a whistleblower complaint and centered on his time leading the Northwest Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Unit, which ended in May 2022 when his contract with the hospital was terminated, state records show.

The hospital last month agreed to repay $1.1 million to the state Medicaid program in a settlement.

At the heart of the investigators’ suspicions is that Hyatt was billing Medicaid for one of the costliest levels of psychiatric care without actually seeing patients face to face and providing the required service.

He was suspended as a provider from the state Medicaid program in February after Medicaid officials became aware of the attorney general’s investigation. Hyatt’s appeal of that suspension is ongoing.

He resigned as chairman of the State Medical Board a day after an Advocate investigation revealed the suspect billing practices and ongoing state reviews. He remained on the board in a non-executive capacity until his resignation last week.

The number of civil lawsuits filed against Hyatt has also grown to a dozen since March.

Deputy Editor of Arkansas Advocate, which is part of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit news organization, supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Advocate retains full editorial independence.