BUTTE — The medical director of the state’s chemical dependency treatment center is on paid administrative leave and faces indefinite suspension of his medical license over concerns that he may have been using some type of intoxicant.
Dr. Mark Catalanello was being monitored by the Montana Professional Assistance Program. His medical license was previously suspended in April 2004 after a December 2001 arrest for possession of dangerous drugs and driving under the influence. He underwent chemical dependency treatment twice, the state Board of Medical Examiners said in its records.
The board reinstated Catalanello’s license in 2007, the same year he began working at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs. His part-time duties at the Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte began in December 2012. His base salary was $280,000, officials said.
Montana Professional Assistance Program clinical coordinator Michael Ramirez started receiving reports in August from people concerned that Catalanello may have relapsed because he was behind on his charting, had appeared disheveled and distracted, was exhibiting bizarre behavior and did not report for work when he was called in on Sept. 25, The Montana Standard reported.
When an official called Catalanello to ask why he wouldn’t come in for work, Catalanello “slurred his speech and did not respond with coherent thoughts, leaving the official with the conclusion that he was under the influence of some form of intoxicant,” the Board of Medical Examiners proposed order said.
Although two toxicology tests came back negative, the collection of the second sample was not monitored, leaving the official to question whether the test was valid, the proposed order said.
Catalanello refused to undergo monitored toxicology screening, violating his agreement with the Montana Professional Assistance Program.
He was placed on paid leave on Sept. 29, said Jon Ebelt, spokesman for the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Ramirez told the board’s screening panel that Catalanello has demonstrated relapse behavior, there is strong evidence that he may have “returned to use of illicit substances in proximity to performing his duties as a physician,” and he refuses to submit to toxicology tests as required under his agreement with the Montana Professional Assistance Program that allowed him to continue to practice.
Catalanello did not attend the Oct. 2 hearing to discuss his license and did not submit a written response to the complaint against him, the board said. He has 20 days from the receipt of his summary suspension notice to request a hearing or enter into an agreement that would solve the pending charges, or the board can enter a final order suspending his license.
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