Prescription medicines are truly a modern miracle. It wasn't long ago that thousands of people died annually from illnesses that are now easily treated by antibiotics. Some medications save lives. Other medications help manage severe pain and otherwise make life more bearable for people dealing with serious ailments. However, prescription medications are often misused, and this drug abuse has led to a rash of crimes related to obtaining and selling medications. A local headline called attention to a disturbing form of prescription-related crime – nursing home drug theft. Prescription theft in senior care settings is an issue of great concern, one our Panama City nursing home law firm is ready to help victims confront.
According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, the Okaloosa County Sheriff's office received a report of a theft at The Manor of Bluewater Bay on February 24. The Manor is a 120-bed nursing home located in Niceville that provides both long-term care and shorter-term rehabilitation services. When a sheriff's deputy responded to the call, the Director of Nursing reported discovering that a nurse had been stealing prescription medications from patients. The Director said he saw 32-year-old Renee Lorraine Stern commit the thefts via a surveillance video.
He confronted the Crestview woman, who admitted to stealing the medications. She later reaffirmed the admission to the deputy, saying she had taken the pills because of pain from a surgical procedure. Stern had 126 pills in her possession belonging to a number of different patients. The medications included oxycodone hydrochloride (the drug in OxyContin), acetaminophen and hydrocodone bitartrate (the drug in Vicodin), lorazepam, and alprazolam. Police have charged Stern with larceny and several charges of possession of a controlled substances. She is scheduled to appear in court on April 9.
A quick Internet search reveals that the problem of prescription theft in nursing homes and other care facilities is widespread. The extent of the problem led the Attorney General of Ohio, Mike DeWine, to include a plan to fight drug theft in nursing homes as part of the state's prescription abuse initiatives. As reported on Drugfree.Org, DeWine announced in July 2012 that his team would offer investigative services to Ohio's nursing facilities. He referenced a number of cases involving employee theft of medications, including thefts for the employee's own use, for the employee's loved ones, or for sale.
We encourage Florida officials to consider Ohio's lead and engage in focused efforts to combat prescription theft in nursing homes. We also think it is important for people to recognize that medication theft is a form of nursing home abuse. The thefts deprive patients of needed medical care, causing illness, pain, and potentially even death. It is an extra insult that the thefts are being perpetrated by employees who have been entrusted with the care of the elderly and infirm, patients who often cannot advocate for themselves. If your loved one has been impacted by prescription theft in Florida's panhandle region, please contact our Panama City nursing home abuse attorney.