Watchdog Calls on HHS to Investigate Obria/Heidi Group for Lying on Application for Title X Funding
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 21, 2019
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, sent a letter to officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calling on the agency to review the error-riddled Title X application submitted by the Obria Group, in conjunction with the Heidi Group and other Texas-based crisis pregnancy centers (CPC). Reportedly, the application drastically overstates the number of patients served by the Heidi Group, identifies a long-departed employee as the Heidi Group’s top quality assurance officer, and fails to disclose the Heidi Group’s terminated state contracts.
CfA Counsel Alice Huling said, “HHS has previously denied Title X funding to Obria, and it is clear that Obria is unfit to receive federal funds. Not only is Obria misleading HHS about the ability of its affiliates to serve low-income women, but Obria is partnering with an organization so inept that not even the State of Texas, where access to comprehensive family planning has long been under attack, is willing to partner with them. HHS officials should review Obria’s application to determine what other lies it includes.”
On March 18, 2019, the Houston Chronicle reported that Obria, a California-based nonprofit, organized a Title X grant application submitted in conjunction with three Texas-based CPCs: the Heidi Group, Midland Community Healthcare Services, and the Community Wellness Clinic of Conroe.
Background on Obria and the Heidi Group
In 2015, Obria began organizing a national network of pregnancy clinics that oppose abortion without exception. Obria’s affiliates do not offer contraceptive choices, including condoms, beyond fertility awareness. In 2018, Obria applied for Title X Funding, but the application was rejected because Obria did not comply with Title X rules requiring providers to offer hormonal birth control. The anti-choice community has been positioning Obria as the national alternative to Planned Parenthood.
The Heidi Group is a nonprofit based in Round Rock, Texas, and led by anti-abortion activist Carol Everett. Between 2016 and 2017, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) designated nearly $7 million in state funds to the Heidi Group, and in return the organization promised to provide family planning and reproductive health care to low-income Texans.
Following several complaints from CfA, on October 12, 2018, HHSC faulted the Heidi Group’s inability to execute its contracts and blacklisted the group from all state funding. HHSC demanded that the Heidi Group pay for the cost of the state’s investigation, and the Office of the Inspector General is investigating whether the Heidi Group needs to pay back more than $1 million in questionable expenses.
Errors in the Title X Application
Despite these failures, Obria and the Heidi Group teamed up to submit an application for Title X funding that is riddled with errors. Reportedly, the grant application states that the Heidi Group serves more than 100 patients a week. However, a Heidi Group employee who left the group earlier this month told a reporter that the clinic only serves about 8 patients on a good day or 40 per week, which is less than half the number of patients represented in its grant application.
Additionally, the grant application also describes a different Heidi Group employee, a nurse named Ronda Schultz, as the group’s “top quality assurance officer.” However, according to reporting, Ms. Schultz left the Heidi Group in April 2018, approximately eight to nine months before Obria submitted the grant application.
Finally, the Obria grant application omitted any information regarding the Heidi Group’s terminated state contracts or the ongoing audit of the Heidi Group’s questionable $1 million expenses.
Ms. Huling continued, “Title X funding is a scarce resource that should be awarded only to agencies and organizations that have a strong record of providing quality care to their patients. In contrast, the Heidi Group has proven it is incapable of providing healthcare services. HHS should be aware that Obria and the Heidi Group are misleading the federal government in their effort to divert taxpayer funds from legitimate healthcare providers.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.