A Florida woman posed as a social worker. No one caught on until she died.

Updated

A Florida social worker surrendered her license after an investigation found her wife pretended to be her and treated patients using an online mental health platform.

Peggy A. Randolph was a licensed clinical social worker in Ellenton, about 20 miles northeast of Sarasota, according to a Florida Department of Health investigative report and online health department records, as first reported by KFF Health News.

She was also licensed in Tennessee as a social worker, per online records and documents filed to the state’s Board of Social Worker Licensure.

When Randolph was reported, she worked for Brightside Health, an online mental health platform, between January 2021 and February 2023. During that time, she provided services to hundreds of clients via video call, according to official documents.

Patient found out about impersonation after social worker’s wife died

Randolph went on bereavement leave following the death of her wife, Tammy G. Heath-Randolph. That’s when Randolph’s patient reported that she had been treated by Randolph’s unlicensed, deceased wife instead of the social worker herself.

The patient who reported the situation provided a photo of herself speaking to Randolph’s wife during a session. When Brightside Health began an investigation and confronted Randolph, the social worker denied the patient had been treated by her wife.

Randolph eventually admitted it was her wife seen in the photo treating the patient and said her wife, Heath-Randolph, had an “uncontrolled bipolar condition” that may have led to her seeing patients behind the social worker’s back.

When Brightside Health began investigating the case, the company learned Randolph’s wife was seeing patients for quite a while, according to a report filed with the Florida Department of Health.

“This was a coordinated effort so Randolph could provide services to patients in person while (her wife) provided services over the phone,” the report read.

According to records filed in Tennessee, Randolph was paid for sessions her wife attended.

"Brightside Health conducted an internal investigation and determined (Randolph) had shared her log-in credentials with (her wife)," the report reads. Brightside Health fired Randolph on Feb. 28, 2023 and then the social worker chose to retire her license.

Brightside Health let police know about the situation on April 17, 2023.

Randolph could not be reached for comment but documents filed in Tennessee show that Randolph agreed not to apply to reinstate her license. She also has to pay a civil penalty of $1,000.

Mental health company reimbursed patients for impacted treatment

Brightside Health said in a statement to USA TODAY that Randolph was an independent contractor on the platform, as well as other mental health sites.

The company said it takes precautions to prevent situations such as these, including interviews, background checks and license verification. The company also said it revalidates licenses for all of its healthcare professionals.

Once Brightside Health found out about the claims against Randolph and her wife, the company removed her access to the company’s systems and terminated her contract.

Brightside Health also said it:

  • Reassigned Randolph’s patients to new healthcare professionals

  • Reported the case to federal authorities

  • Reported Randolph to professional licensing boards

  • Conducted a comprehensive security audit

The company also said it notified the Office of Civil Rights of a potential HIPAA violation, and also contacted patients in writing and via phone.

The company said it also issued refunds for potentially-related sessions and let insurers know.

“The claimed behavior would be a breach of Randolph’s contractual agreement with Brightside and a violation of her professional code of ethics,” the company said in the written statement.

“We’re extremely disappointed that a single provider was willing to violate the trust that Brightside and, most importantly, her patients had placed in her, as trust is the foundation of the patient and provider relationship in both telehealth and in-person care.”

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY's NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757. Follow her on Twitter at @SaleenMartin or email her at sdmartin@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Social worker surrenders license after wife pretends to be her

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