With 15.8 cases of medication theft per 1,000 beds/units in a long-term care facility, Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties have the second-highest rate in the state since 2009, The Bend Bulletin reported Sunday.
Grant, Harney and Malheur counties have the highest rate with 16.2 theft cases per 1,000 beds/units.
According to records obtained by The Bulletin, the Oregon Aging and People with Disabilities Division has investigated 29 cases of medication theft that have taken place at 17 long-term care facilities in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties since 2009.
In each of Central Oregon's medication theft cases, investigators suspect the thefts were committed by a facility employee who, as part of his or her job duties, was given access to a locked cabinet, cart or room where the medicines needed by dozens of elderly residents were kept.
These staff members, some of whom had been working at their facilities for years, most often stole strong narcotic painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Local law enforcement officers, working with the state's investigators, identified and arrested five medication theft suspects and charged them with a variety of felonies and misdemeanors, depending on the number and type of pills stolen.
The state agency also cited the suspected thieves with abuse -- an administrative red flag that according to one expert can wreck a person's career -- even if there wasn't enough evidence to bring them to trial. In cases where a suspect couldn't be identified, it administered this sanction against the facility itself for allowing such a theft to happen.
"In our legal definition, it is elder abuse to steal anything from a person living in a nursing home," said Paul Greenman, legal counsel for the Oregon Health Care Association, a trade organization with almost 600 long-term care facilities as members. "This is a prohibited activity and there is a clear penalty for it.
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