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Former Highland Nursing Home LPN charged with stealing pain meds

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MASSENA - A former licensed practical nurse at the Highland Nursing Home faces nine felony charges and a host of misdemeanor counts following an investigation into allegations of drug diversion at the facility.

The New York state Attorney General’s Office charged Amanda A. Montgomery 35, of Reed Drive, Massena, with four felony counts of first-degree falsifying business records and five felony counts of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.

Montgomery was also charged with six counts of petit larceny, four counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and four counts of willful violation of health laws. Those charges are all misdemeanors.

She was arraigned by Massena Town Justice Gerald P. Sharlow and released on her own recognizance at the recommendation of the assistant attorney general.

Investigators with the state Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit in Syracuse allege Montgomery made false entries alleging she had given pain medications to patients when she had stolen them and taken them herself.

She allegedly reported she had given pain medications to patients who had been receiving them on an as-needed basis while other medical care providers reported during that same time period they had been able to control those patients’ pain without narcotics.

The investigator’s report noted a narcotic pill count on Jan. 13 revealed a blister pack of the narcotic Dilaudid contained two pills of an unknown medicine in the middle of the pack and the back of the pack had been taped over.

Investigators said further review by staff revealed that nine more pills had been switched, substituting nitroglycerine for the Dilaudid, with the blister pack taped over to hide the medication.

Co-workers also told investigators they had witnessed Montgomery taking pain killers when she was at work, and one colleague noted she had seen her take two pills from a blister pack and ingest them.

Special Investigator Scott D. Petucci, in a document filed in the court records, said Montgomery had admitted she had completed the pill count as required at every shift change on Jan. 13 and documented the correct number of pills.

She then reportedly took pills from three separate blister packs - a tablet of Vicodin 5mg/325mg, a tablet of 7.5 mg/325mg and a tablet of Percoset 5mg/325 mg.

“She then swallowed the three pills and continued to perform her duties, which included testing residents’ blood sugar levels and administering medication,” Mr. Petucci noted in his report.

He added Montgomery had also admitted she had taken pills from a blister pack on Jan. 11 and replaced them with pills she found on her medication cart.

“(She) further admitted that during July and August she took pain medications from patients who had been prescribed by those medications ‘as needed’ and documented ... they had been administered when she had in fact stolen them for her own use. She admitted using approximately 20 Percoset and Vicodin tablets per day and ingesting them herself ,” Mr. Pertucci said in his report.

Montgomery, in a statement she provided to state police on Jan. 13, said she has struggled with an addiction to pain killers since suffering a back injury in 2004 when she was working at Massena Memorial Hospital.

She said she was prescribed Vicodin when she was treated in the hospital’s emergency room.

“Honestly I did not know how addictive they were, but I found out. I have had a problem on and off since I was 24 years old. About four years ago, I got sober for a period of eight months. I have had other periods of time where I was sober for a while. I know it is the end of my career as a nurse if I am addicted to the prescription pain killers,” she said in her statement.

Montgomery said she had been taking approximately 20 pain killers a day last summer and admitted stealing pills from the nursing home.

“(I) did not take all the medication from the nursing home and would only take them if I could not find them any other way. I would sign out the medications and fill out the patient charts, but I would not actually administer the medication. I would keep the pills and ingest them. I’m not sure how many pills I took,” she admitted.

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