Disciplinary actions against the former medical director of the state-run Montana Chemical Dependency Center in Butte are taking another step forward now that he has failed to defend himself against drug abuse charges leveled last fall.
Dr. Mark Jay Catalanello’s medical license was temporarily suspended in September when he was still director of MCDC. He is also a former full-time physician at Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs. Catalanello now faces full suspension of his medical license after failing to show up to a scheduled pretrial hearing in Helena on Wednesday.
Catalanello’s case was scheduled to go to trial before a Montana Department of Labor hearings examiner on Feb. 23, but the trial has been canceled, according to Mike Fanning, an attorney for the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.
“Dr. Catalanello has made no appearance of any sort since his Oct. 11, 2015, hearing demand,” Fanning wrote in a motion for summary judgment filed with the state Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Hearings.
Fanning told MTFP in an interview Thursday that Catalanello has not responded to any phone calls or emails or requests for legal discovery since he first notified the board he planned to contest the allegations against him.
Catalanello did not respond to an email requesting comment for this story and other attempts by MTFP to contact him by phone have been unsuccessful.
“I personally have tried to call him and I have sent documents by email,” Fanning said in an interview Thursday. “I tried to call him yesterday before the hearing, but I just got his voicemail again.”
A source who contacted MTFP by email said Catalanello has been in touch with members of his family, but no other details about his whereabouts are known.
Catalanello is now considered to be in “default” of the hearing process and Fanning is drafting a proposed order recommending the board suspend Catalanello’s license indefinitely.
“My thought is he ought to be suspended for a good long time until he can prove that he’s back on the right track,” Fanning said.
Fanning said he hopes to have the order approved by a hearings examiner in time for a March 11 meeting of the board’s adjudication panel. The panel would, at that point, review the proposed order and make a decision about the future of Catalanello’s medical license.
The Montana Board of Medical Examiners suspended Catalanello’s medical license on a temporary basis in September after he failed to participate in an emergency meeting of the board’s screening panel. The panel called the emergency meeting on the heels of allegations raised in October that Catalanello was using illegal drugs in violation of his board-ordered drug and alcohol monitoring.
The panel met on Sept. 29 outside their regularly scheduled monthly meeting to review complaints that Catalanello was exhibiting “erratic behavior” and had refused on multiple occasions to provide a urine sample, among other complaints.
The state placed Catalanello on paid administrative leave following his Sept. 29 suspension, and his last day working for the state was Oct. 19, 2015.
Department of Public Health and Human Services spokesman Jon Ebelt would not discuss the details of Catalanello’s employment with the state or say whether he was fired or if he quit.
History of abuse
Catalanello has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, including multiple felony drug arrests. The board suspended his Montana medical license in 2005 for “unprofessional conduct” related to illegal drug use.
The Medical Board of California in 2004 revoked Catalanello’s medical license after he failed to participate in suspension proceedings in that state stemming from a 2001 arrest in Missoula for driving under the influence.
The board ordered Catalanello to undergo drug and alcohol treatment and enter into a monitoring contract with the Montana Professional Assistance Program, or MPAP, in order to have his medical license reinstated.
According to Montana Board of Medical Examiners records, on March 22, 2003, the board “commenced monitoring” of Catalanello’s practice through MPAP.
According to board disciplinary records, Catalanello “relapsed” for the first time and attended MPAP treatment again beginning on Nov. 3, 2003.Catalanello relapsed again a few months later. On Jan. 20, 2004, he tested positive for alcohol, which was prohibited under the terms of his MPAP rehab contract.
According to board disciplinary records, Catalanello admitted at that time “to consumption of alcohol both the night before the UA screening and on approximately 12 or 13 other occasions over the preceding three months.”
Catalanello then said he “will not work with the Clinical Coordinator for MPAP,” board records stated.
At that point, the Montana Board of Medical Examiners initiated proceedings to suspend Catalanello’s medical license.
On May 21, 2004, the board suspended Catalanello’s license indefinitely based on “allegations that [Catalanello] possessed and abused illegal drugs and alcohol, drove while under the influence, and was unsuccessful in his efforts at rehabilitation and treatment.”