Sixth Street Drugs: Police identify ‘persons of interest’ in hospital pharmacy burglary | New

TRAVERSE CITY — Local law enforcement has identified “persons of interest” in a late summer burglary at a pharmacy owned by Munson, where newly obtained government documents show large amounts of amphetamines, prescription painkillers and other drugs were stolen.

“This is still an active investigation, we have identified people with an interest in the crime and are working with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies regarding the investigation,” Traverse City Police Captain Jim Bussell said Friday.

Bussell declined to provide additional information on who may be involved, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

On August 15, the day of the break-in, a Munson pharmacist submitted a Form 106 to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, stating that Sixth Street Drugs had been robbed early in the morning and that “several bottles” of controlled substances had been stolen.

This form and others submitted by Munson personnel to the DEA regarding missing controlled substances in 2020, 2021, and 2022 were provided to the Record-Eagle by a state licensing office that received copies of the forms, in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, hospitals and pharmacies are required to report the loss or theft of controlled substances to the DEA. Copies of the 106 forms are submitted to Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs when the loss or theft is significant or might involve a licensed healthcare worker.

On Form 106 for the Aug. 15 break-in, a pharmacy supervisor told the DEA that the thief(s) broke two glass doors to enter the pharmacy, opened locked cabinets, and took a surprising number of medications from order, including:

Amphetamines – 359 Adderall capsules, 200 Detroamp tablets and 121 phentermine capsules.

Analgesics – 47 tablets of morphine, 118 tablets of acetaminophen with codeine, 423 doses of codeine syrup, 515 doses of Guaifenesin Codeine liquid, 383 tablets of tramadol and 79 capsules of pregabalin.

Benzodiazepines — 694 alprazolam tablets, 234 clobazam tablets and 103 temazepam capsules.

Miscellaneous drugs — 32 tablets of lacosamide, an antiepileptic, 193 capsules of zaleplon and 394 tablets of zolpidem, two drugs used to treat insomnia, and 90 tablets of methyltestosterone, a drug used to treat menopausal symptoms and some forms of cancer .

The break-in came just weeks after Munson officials signed a $1.5 million settlement agreement with the DEA, following a years-long investigation into the pharmacy by federal agents who, according to documents, said they had already found numerous violations of the prescription of controlled substances. .

Munson Healthcare chief legal officer Rachel Roe said Thursday that the hospital has complied with all requirements of the settlement agreement, has made the first payment of $750,000 and will make the second and final payment when it is due May 2023.

“We did a full eighty,” Roe said, of overseeing the hospital pharmacy and the required training of pharmacy staff.

“Sixth Street Drugs is a very different pharmacy than the one the DEA first investigated two years ago now,” Roe said. “All the staff are very well trained on all the red flag rules. Absolutely, it’s a different place now.

The DEA says ‘red flags’ are indications that drugs are being illegally diverted to those who should not have access to them and include signs such as patients paying cash, patients traveling long distances to get their prescriptions or doctors writing prescriptions for certain drug combinations.

Roe said the federal investigation, which the DEA says began in 2019, is seen by hospital management as an opportunity for the hospital to improve its security and tracking of controlled substances.

For example, Bluesight, a drug diversion software, will be installed – not in retail pharmacies – but in all eight Munson-owned hospitals before the end of the year, and is designed to use computerized data to find anomalies. in prescription, Roe said. .

Retail pharmacies are under video surveillance, according to information from Munson.

“It helps us become more aware of situations in real time instead of becoming aware of them after the fact,” Roe said. “It’s this whole idea of ​​mining data, finding patterns and responding when there are things out of the ordinary in the data.”

Even before the burglary, Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien said, he sought to strengthen and improve the relationship between the hospital and its officers.

A social worker, hired under a TCPD grant received from the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program, which emphasizes partnerships, will help establish a rapid-response protocol for incidents in Munson and elsewhere, O’Brien said.

O’Brien said the data would also help the TCPD, and he would like to be able to access Munson’s internal data on the frequency of overdoses and the substances used by people treated for an overdose.

“My goal is to break down barriers,” O’Brien said. “We made a lot of gains. We are going in the right direction.

On September 25, for example, records show that a Munson official contacted TCBP to turn over methamphetamine to a security guard seized from a patient and later stored in a hospital safe.

And on April 22, records show Munson staff notified the Traverse Narcotics team that a large amount of controlled substances were missing and a registered nurse was fired after her prescription record showed “deviations.” repeated over his peers.

Form 106 of this incident showed the theft involved painkillers – 139 hydrocodone; 106 doses of liquid hydromophone; 55 tablets of oxycodone; 1 disposable syringe of morphine, 1 dose of liquid morphine; and benzodiazepines — 19 tablets of alprazolam, 4 tablets of clonazepam, 7 tablets of diazepam, 2 syringes of diazepam and 3 tablets of lorazepam.

A timeline of these incidents shows that communication between Munson and TCPD likely could have been better.

The meth was seized in June and law enforcement was not contacted until four months later, records show, and the theft by the nurse was identified in March and not reported to the DEA , LARA or local authorities a month later.

Previous Form 106 filings by Munson staff show that other incidents of controlled substance loss have been attributed to packaging errors, inventory errors or accidental releases.

Sometimes those discrepancies involved fentanyl, which harm reduction experts now cause more overdose deaths than any other drug.

Both O’Brien and Roe have stated that an addiction to controlled substances, illicit drugs, or a combination is a treatable disease, and that the disease can cause antisocial behaviors, such as stealing.

It’s a complex societal issue, O’Brien said, that no community, including northern Michigan, can “get out of jail.”

“When we see a crime, we have to stop. It’s our oath of office,” O’Brien said. “But working as a team with different disciplines and offering an individual a path to sobriety, accepting who they are, accepting their condition and making them whole or good is more productive than just throwing someone in jail.”

Pam Lynch of Harm Reduction Michigan, a nonprofit organization that. for years, has worked to care for drug users and reduce the stigma around consumer health issues, said the break-in is a symptom of a problem that began decades ago.

“There is a market for these pills due to over-prescription from around 1999 to 2015 or 2017,” Lynch said. “The cat got out of the bag and we’ve been taking care of it ever since.”

“We as a society need to help people and meet their needs so they don’t walk into pharmacies,” Lynch said. “The biggest problem now is not prescriptions but street fentanyl, although benzos combined with opioids are still a recipe for an overdose.”

TCPD’s new social worker, Jennifer Campbell, began work on Monday.

More information about Harm Reduction Michigan and the services provided by the organization can be found on their Facebook page.

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