COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced last week 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 (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 (MFCU) 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.
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 at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Enforcement/Report-Patient-Abuse-or-Neglect.