Former Grand County EMS employee sentenced in drug diversion case
A former Grand County Emergency Medical Services employee was sentenced to 90 days in jail in April after he was convicted of stealing drugs from EMS vehicles.
Matthew Holmes pled guilty to four felonies and a misdemeanor as part of a plea deal and will serve four years of probation following his release from jail, according to court documents.
As part of the deal, 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey dropped 13 additional charges against Holmes, all of which were felonies.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment first alerted Grand County EMS to a possible case of drug diversion in 2013, according to previous interviews with EMS officials.
The investigation was turned over to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
Over the past few months, multiple calls requesting comment from CBI have gone unreturned.
CDPHE, which certifies EMS providers, conducted its own investigation into the incident.
“We were not able to identify anyone that was sickened or endangered by the incident,” said CDPHE Spokesman Mark Salley.
The incidents in question are alleged to have occurred between Nov. 1, 2012, and Dec. 19, 2013, according to court documents.
Holmes was alleged to have stolen morphine and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, from three different EMS vehicles, the criminal complaint states.
Prosecutors then allege that Holmes replaced the drugs with “an imitation controlled substance.”
Holmes pled guilty to burglary, possession of a controlled substance, distribution of an imitation controlled substance and embezzlement of public property, all felonies, and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment.
EMS adds safes, changes packaging
In the wake of the case, Grand County EMS has made improvements to how it stores narcotics, said EMS Chief Ray Jennings.
Before the incident, the department had already implemented a needleless system, Jennings said.
“It helps to prevent either the provider or the patient from coming into contact with dirty needles or cross contamination situations,” Jennings said.
The department now stores narcotics in safes that can only be accessed by passcode and that log each entry.
The department reviews the information each month and audits both the logs and medication quarterly, Jennings said.
Narcotics are also packaged in a hardened device to prevent access to the drugs with a needle.
Holmes was able to access narcotics using a needle because of the soft device they were packaged in, Jennings said.
Jennings added that it’s a constant cat and mouse game with drug diverters.
“One of the things that we do know today is that there is a high number of healthcare providers across the spectrum that divert medications, and every time we find a new solution, there’s always new problem,” Jennings said.
Grand County EMS benefitted from CBI and CDPHE’s investigations and input, Jennings said.
“I think the system is better than it was it was,” Jennings said. “It was definitely a learning activity for us, and we’ve been very open about what we did.”
Still, the EMS industry could benefit from more avenues for providers to seek help if they have a drug problem, Jennings said.
“The crux of it becomes is we’re trying to make the system safe and we do have a safe system,” Jennings said. “We’re just trying to increase that security to keep honest people honest.”
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