DeWine announces nursing home anti-drug abuse effort - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

DeWine announces nursing home anti-drug abuse effort

COLUMBUS, OH (Toledo News Now) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that he is intensifying his efforts to stop pharmaceutical drug thefts in adult care facilities by offering investigative assistance to every nursing home, assisted living agency, and residential care facility in Ohio.

The effort is in response to growing concerns over prescription drug abuse, including drug diversion or theft, by care facility employees.  In many cases, employees steal prescription drugs to feed their own addictions, the addictions of a loved one, or to sell the medication on the streets.

"Every time this happens a real patient is deprived of the medication they need to get well," said DeWine. "This is why my office is now contacting facility administrators throughout the state. We want to remind them that we can help."

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Ohio Attorney General's Office is authorized to review and investigate complaints of elderly abuse, neglect, and drug diversion. Along with the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the Ohio Department of Health, the MFCU can also seek the prosecution of suspects.

"Our law enforcement officers have been aggressively shutting down 'pill mills' across the state, but now addicts may turn to care facilities to feed their dependence," DeWine said. "We want to remind those who work in these licensed care facilities that they have the mandatory duty, as required by law, to report suspicions of abuse, neglect or drug diversion."

Over the past several years, drug diversions cases have become more common, including several cases prosecuted by the MFCU:

  • A Fairfield County nursing assistant convicted of stealing pain patches from a 71-year-old man suffering from several severe medical conditions.
  • The convictions of three nurses in Meigs County who were caught by surveillance cameras stealing prescription pain patches and pills.
  • A Franklin County nurse convicted of stealing Oxycodone pills.
  • A Cuyahoga County nurse convicted of stealing Percocet and Oxycodone pills and replacing them with Tylenol and Zofran tablets, respectively.
  • The MFCU has an entire team of agents who specialize in the investigation of crimes against care facility residents, and they are available to help law enforcement agencies that may not have the resources to investigate these cases.

Beginning next week, administrators of every care facility in the state will receive a letter reminding them of their obligation under state law to report suspected illegal activity and that investigative assistance is available through the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Arbors of Sylvania is one of the care facilities that can expect a letter from DeWine. Its regional director said he has seen 15 instances of stolen medication in his 20-year career. It has not happened lately, but his guard has not come down.

"It is a concern for us, probably not only here, but also other places in the health care industry. So it's something that we're in tune to, and we're trying to work closely with those professionals to make sure we have a safe environment," said Chris Warrick, regional director for Extendicare.

Arbors of Sylvania has medications documented every change of shift. Pharmacists also perform regular audits.

"If there's any discrepancies in those records, then we're obligated to report," said Warrick.

Warrick said it is good to know they have a place to turn if something does come up.

Anyone who suspects abuse, neglect or drug diversion in one of Ohio's care facilities can file a complaint by contacting the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at 614-466-0722, by calling the Attorney General's Help Desk at 800-282-0515, or by filing a complaint online.

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