Florida Nursing Home Drug Theft a Rising Problem; Ohio Takes Aim

July 18, 2012 by Dean H. Freeman

One form of Palm Beach Gardens nursing home abuse that can often go unnoticed is that of prescription drug theft from patients. bluepills.jpg

It's often not recognized as abuse or neglect in the sense we typically think of: bed sores, wandering patients, violence and the like.

We know that not only can such an act have serious or even deadly consequences to the patient if he or she is not receiving the proper medication, but it can also be an indication of greater problems with the level of care at any given facility.

Legislators in Florida could take a cue from their northern counterparts in Ohio, which has enacted a plan that is aimed at slashing the theft of prescription drugs from patients in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

The attorney general of Ohio has issued a formal letter to nursing home officials throughout the state, imploring them to report to state officials when workers heist patient drugs.

Attorney General Mike DeWine was quoted by a Cleveland newspaper as saying that he believes this is a growing issue, though the statistics to back it up are scant. That goes back to the issue of reporting. If nursing homes have no incentive to report such abuses, why would they?

Like Florida, Ohio has a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which among other responsibilities is charged with overseeing theft of prescription drugs from disabled or elderly assisted living residents. There haven't been a scourge of investigations by either state into this issue, but that's not necessarily indicative of a lack of a problem.

In fact, we're with DeWine in our inference of a ballooning problem in this regard, due to a crackdown in both states on pill mills, or facilities that basically operate with a front of legitimacy, but in reality only exist to cater to prescription pill addicts and dealers - mostly those in search of pain killers, such as oxycodone.

Reuters reported earlier this year that Florida officials had "declared success" in the battle against these operations, where doctors in 2011 were purported to have prescribed 10 times more painkillers than those in all the rest of the states combined. State Attorney Pam Bondi was quoted in February as saying that since then, there have been more than 2,100 arrests - including 35 doctors - resulting in a 40 percent increase in the prosecutions of prescription drug-related crime.

Of course, this is good news. But anyone who has ever met an addict knows they will go to any length to get their hands on their drugs - and they're not above stealing it from the elderly and disabled. Less availability on the streets means an increased likelihood of theft in nursing homes.

The case that prompted DeWine's letter was that of a 71-year-old resident who complained to state officials - over the protestations of nursing home administrators - that a staffer was stealing pain patches off his body.

As the attorney general rightly noted, theft of patient drugs deprives that person of needed medication - and is ultimately a form of abuse.

Call the Law Offices of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez at 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Ohio attorney general says prescription drug thefts at nursing homes an under-reported problem, By Reginald Fields, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Abuse Case Involves Over-Medication, July 1, 2012, Palm Beach Gardens Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Blog