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Best friend honors slain Mishawaka doctor, stops prescribing opioid medications

“When this happened, I said I’m no longer writing those two things, I’m not writing those medications anymore, we will find other ways to take care of their pain,” said Dr. A.J. Mencias with South Bend Orthopedics.

A coping Michiana surgeon, Dr. A.J. Mencias has completely changed the way he practices after the loss of his best friend in the business.

“When I first moved to town about 13 or 14 years ago, one of the first people I met in this community was Todd Graham. He came up, introduced himself and he said, ‘Hey, I’ll be your friend’. Really at that point we became the best of friends,” said Dr. Mencias.

Back in July, the Saint Joseph Rehabilitation Institute was the scene of a deadly shooting. Doctor Todd Graham was gunned down in the parking lot of the rehab center. Police say it happened after he refused to prescribe pain pills to a patient’s wife.

“He was my partner, he was my brother, he was my father. And I remember that last day that he was murdered on July 26th. I came back to work the following week, I told my office staff ‘We’re not prescribing the same opioids that we used to prescribe and that includes Percocet, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, we just basically essentially .. stop prescribing it,” said Dr. Mencias.

But Dr. Mencias says he had to figure out a way to control patients’ pain after surgery, so he’s implementing several non–addictive alternatives like the the On Q Pain Relief System.

“Delivers anesthetic agent to their nerves so that for several days after surgery they have no pain. Every single person was getting percocet or norco, or strong opioids, every single one of them, between 30 and 60 pills. We’ve been very successful not prescribing it,” said Dr. Mencias.

And while he says it can’t bring back his best friend and partner, it’s a chance to create something good in his honor.

 “This never would have become truly a passion of mine unless my best friend wasn’t murdered. And I talked to his wife and family and they believe something good has to come out of this, and so for me, this “something good” is this,” said Dr. Mencias.

Dr. Mencias says this isn’t the first time implementing the On Q Pump in his practice but that it’s much more prevalent now that addictive pain medications aren’t. He says since his partner, Dr. Graham died, he’s only prescribed two opioid medication scripts and it’s been a success.

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