ABC57 investigation uncovered startling number of nurses stealing, abusing drugs

NOW: ABC57 investigation uncovered startling number of nurses stealing, abusing drugs


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- We trust them to take care of us and family members in the hospital, nursing homes and the doctor's office. But, ABC57 is uncovering a startling number of nurses are stealing and abusing powerful drugs while on the job.

Just this past may, Creekside Village Nursing Home in Mishawaka, made a police report claiming someone had stolen liquid morphine and replaced it with cough syrup. In April, the Attorney General's office filed a complaint against the nursing license of a former St. Joseph Hospital employee accused of stealing pain medications. Those are just two recent examples of what people in the medical profession call "diversion," or the theft of prescription drugs.

In a review of just 90 days of complaints filed against nurse licenses across the state, ABC57 found 39 of 66 involved the abuse or theft of medications. That's nearly 60 percent of all of the cases.

It's such a problem, the state has a contract with a company aimed at treating addictions of nurses, doctors and pharmacists. 

“We currently have 417 in active monitoring.” Tracy Traut, a Clinical Case Manager with Indiana Professionals Recovery Program, said. “Indiana professionals recovery program is what we refer to as an alternative to discipline program for medical professionals in the state of Indiana.”

IPRP took over the state contract less than a year ago. In the 11 months it's been working with the state, they've dealt with nearly 650 medical professionals, mainly Nurses. Traut says it's a national problem.

“3 to 6 percent of nurses currently engaged in active practice, have an alcohol or drug addiction problem.” She said.

IPRP serves essentially as a middleman. If a nurse has been accused of stealing drugs, fails a drug test or has a DUI, the state's licensing board will have the company do an assessment, then recommend treatment. Traut and her team then monitor their treatment, pass info along to the state and, many times, the employer.

“You have an accountability system.” Traut explained.

That accountability system is essential for nurses who are allowed to go back to work on a probationary license, Traut says. Many times those nurses will have restrictions on handling narcotics and could be monitored by Traut's team for up to 5 years.

“What we want to do is make sure everyone is make sure everyone is feeling good and stable and back on their feet, before they go back to the hustle and bustle of work.” She said. “We have many nurses who go back to have successful careers, happy lives, who go back to being pharmacists, pharm techs and really do beautifully for most of their lives.”

Traut says it's common for any addict to relapse. In fact, about 50 percent relapse in the first 6 months of recovery. Traut says the goal is 5 years of sobriety. At that point, the chance of relapse drops by half. IPRP says they've had clients relapse, but, so far, none of it's clients have been caught taking medications from their employer during or after monitoring.

ABC57 reached out to multiple state offices for comment. The state licensing board would not answer our questions. Indiana Attorney General, Curtis Hill's, Office did not return our messages.

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