Fatality raised more questions about Kimberly Even's credentials as drug counselor
No criminal law in Illinois prevents someone from claiming to be a certified drug counselor
Christine Beh's son Chase died of a heroin overdose in 2009 after receiving care from someone whose drug counseling credentials are being investigated. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)
Even has been jailed since her arrest and could not be reached for comment. Her husband, standing outside the Skokie courtroom at a recent hearing, declined to comment.
Her attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, said after a court appearance that Even had been working as a drug counselor and social worker for years, but he could not confirm whether she was certified or licensed for either position.
"That I do not know," he said.
Sorosky said Even had permission to deposit the insurance checks made out to the father of her Fox River Grove client. "I'm sure the father maintains she didn't," he said.
Meanwhile, Even also is wanted on a felony charge that alleges she possessed a credit card without permission that belonged to a company she worked for in Utah, according to authorities.
Glencoe Detective Jon Harlow said that charge resulted from Even's involvement with the same Fox River Grove client she allegedly stole insurance checks from. Harlow said Even accompanied the client to a Utah drug treatment center.
Caring for Chase
Chase Beh had just turned 20 when he was referred to Even's Northfield clinic by Evanston Hospital in the spring of 2009, according to his mother. The hospital denied that it specifically directed the Beh family to Even. But at the time, Even's clinic was still listed on a government website linked to by the hospital.
That site, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, removed its reference to Even's clinic in October, after inquiries from the Tribune.
A 2007 New Trier High School graduate, Chase Beh was attending classes at Oakton Community College. He had fought kidney disease since he was a toddler, receiving a transplant in 2004 from his older brother.
That transplant failed, which his mother said contributed to Beh's attempts to "self-medicate" with illegal drugs — on top of a cocktail of medicines prescribed by his doctors.
Chase Beh saw Even twice a week to combat his cocaine and marijuana use, his mother said.
"She was a major part of his treatment," his mother said.
Frank Ponziano was the other counselor at Even's North Shore Adolescent Recovery Center. He recalled having disagreements with Even about clients — Chase Beh in particular, who Ponziano thought needed "high-level treatment."
Even "told me and the clients that she was a drug counselor and a master's level social worker with a degree," said Ponziano, who does hold an alcohol and drug counselor certification.
Because of his medical history, as well as dangerous behavioral issues, including a DUI arrest, Chase Beh should have been in a care facility, Ponziano said.
"He needed a higher level of care, like detox or a halfway house," Ponziano said.
After Chase Beh's death, Ponziano began checking his employer's credentials. In November 2009, two months after the death, Ponziano filed a complaint against Even with the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. When Even found out, she fired him, Ponziano said.
That complaint led the state to close her clinic. During visits to the clinic, the Department of Human Services "found numerous rules violations, including the one that they didn't have a medical director," which is required by law, spokeswoman Januari Smith said. The department also determined Even had misrepresented her credentials and forged documents, Smith said.
Durr said it's difficult to locate and stop someone claiming to be a certified counselor. The association relies on consumers and other practitioners to file complaints or raise questions.
"Once you inform us of what's going on, we're going to take action," Durr said. Patients can check their counselor's credentials on the association's website at iaodapca.org.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation operates similarly, according to a spokeswoman.
No one knows exactly how many clients Even had or how much money she has received, Durr said.
"Those questions are unanswered. And (they are) things we may try to get to in Springfield," he said, referring to the complaint pending in Sangamon County.