Lawrence Forces Injured Officers to Sue For Disability Benefits Due Them

Just Who or What is Meditrol Inc.?


By: Tom Duggan (originally published in 2003, 

The only people who seem to care about the answer to that question are the politicians and the men and women of the Lawrence Police Department.

 Meditrol Inc., is a billing and management company that contracts with the City of Lawrence to do billing and paper work related to injury claims by members of the Lawrence Police Department. Until a few years ago, that job was done in city hall. But not anymore. Under the Dowling administration, and the direction of Cheif Romero, not only is Meditrol making decisions about billing for insurance and workman’s comp, they are also making the determination as to whether or not a police officer’s injuries or health problems are line of duty issues.

 The Chicopee based company has made life difficult for many police officers who get hurt protecting our citizens. When officers expect their line of duty injuries to be paid for by the City of Lawrence, often they are told to pay up themselves. According to officers within the department, Meditrol, as a matter of routine rejects all line of duty claims and forces police officers to go through lengthy arbitration procedures in order to receive their disability compensation and payment of critical medial expenses. And, even after winning arbitration, most officers suffer further setbacks when Cheif Romero appeals the arbitrators decision to hold up their pay. While these injured officers are fighting arbitration hearings and endless appeals to obtain needed benefits they are simply not being paid their salary.

 Just imagine being a cop in Lawrence and getting hurt on the job, only to find out that you are now without a paycheck and at the mercy of a billing company in Chicopee that has no care or concern about the pain and suffering of our men in blue.

 Former budget and finance director Carl Prussing told Rumbo last week that the city used to handle the injured in the line of duty cases but that “they just weren’t capable or competent enough to do the job.” So, the city contracted to a private company more concerned with their bottom line than they are with the physical and psychological well being of our city workers, in particular our police officers who face danger every day.

 Police officers who brave the streets of Lawrence must be able to do so with the confidence that an injury occurring because of their job will be taken care of promptly and efficiently. Besides having to worry about the politics and back stabbing that goes on inside the department, and the hostile environment that they routinely experience on the streets, officers now have to worry about what will happen to their families if they are lucky enough to survive being shot, stabbed, run down or hit over the head. Is this any way to treat the men and women who voluntarily patrol our streets at their own peril? Is this any way to thank them for putting their lives on the line? Mayor Patricia Dowling and John Romero certainly seems to think so.

 Ask any police officer who is not getting special treatment from the Dowling administration and they will tell you that morale is at an all time low at the station. And who can blame them? They have enough to worry about performing their regular duties without having to worry if their families can put food on the table if they get hurt on the job. And that is the worst part of this Meditrol situation, at least for the officers.

 For the tax payers, the worst part is; cops who are denied benefits and pay while they fight their case are then forced to sue the City, meaning millions of our tax dollars going to lost or settled law suits. It is not only needless it is sickening! This is a senseless situations that the mayor could easily avoid.

 As bad as Mayor Mary Claire Kennedy was, she was right about one thing, if you put lawyers in charge of government the lawyers make all money while everyone else suffers. Under Mayor Dowlings administration the lawyers and consultants are making millions on these needless legal cases while our officers are suffering from injuries they receive at work.

 What an insult that our police officers have to beg for benefits we promised them when they took the job! Of course the Cheif’s explanation is that officers claiming injury must be checked out and deemed line of duty by someone other than the officers doctor, so Meditrol serves to weed out phony claims. OK, fair enough. But if Meditrol is rejecting all claims as a matter of routine in order to increase their bottom line, we are not safeguarding against phony claims we are demoralizing the police department and illegally denying benefits to officers who should be paid until someone proves some kind of fraud.

 Of course, you haven’t read anything about the Meditrol situation, the case of Officer Rosa or the other officers in this situation. The Tribune spent so much time and ink painting him as a rogue cop that, to spill the beans on his injury case would only damage their stated position and make you think twice about the way they reported on it in the first place. It’s called Covering your ass.

 According to Arbitrator, Atty. Katz, Rosa was wrongfully denied benefits and went several months without a paycheck after being attacked from behind with a beer bottle and suffering continuous headaches after being released from the hospital. And he’s not the only one. Another officer currently needs crucial heart surgery from work related stress problems and he has been denied the surgery he needs.

 Both officers eventually received a judgment against the city, but the city refused to comply forcing endless appeasls. The question here is WHY? Why are we putting our cops through this? For an extra buck? For political purposes? Or is Carl Prussing right? Is it simply because our legal department is too incompetent to handle line of duty disability issues forcing the mayor and Cheif to abdicate their responsibility to an out of town corportation who does’t give a damn about our city or our officers?

 I don’t know the answer to that question. Of course I could speculate, but what fun would that be? The facts are what they are, and regardless of the reasons we have to do something to protect our cops from the politicians so that they can be justly compensated when they are hurt or disabled. There insn’t one shed of decency left in city hall when our Mayor and Cheif allow this to happen. It is no wonder the men in blue are terrified to speak to the press for fear of reprisals. It’s no wonder morale is so low.

 Hopefully, with the mayoral election coming up this year we may just get a new mayor who cares more about the safety of our officers and the solvency of our city treasury than Mayor Dowling. (though we hear she is leaving by June) It will certainly be intereesting when the debates begin. And when they do, I only hope that the other mayoral candidates make Meditrol a campaign issue. Because it is painfully obvious that this mayor and this cheif will do nothing to protect our police officers when they get hurt on the street. And that, my friends is unacceptable!