A nurse who previously worked at the Polk County Jail in Polk County, Florida has been arrested for allegedly stealing pain medications from the correctional facility. Per a report from Florida NBC News affiliate WFLA News Channel 8, the nurse was caught because of a traffic stop.
On the evening of January 17, a police officer stopped the nurse, 39-year-old Griselda Montanez, for speeding. The police officer smelled marijuana after speaking with Montanez and subsequently found drugs in her car: three marijuana cigarettes and two urine cups filled with pain medications. Two of the marijuana cigarettes were half-smoked.
The medications found in Montanez’s car were both prescription strength. The first was the muscle relaxer Baclofen. The second was Gabapentin, a medication prescribed to prevent seizures and treat nerve pain caused by shingles. Montanez had 16 capsules of both medications in her car. When the officer asked Montanez whether she had a prescription for the pills, she admitted that she did not and that she had taken them from the jail without authority to do so.
Montanez is now facing several criminal charges: two counts of grand theft of a controlled substance and two counts of possession of a prescription drug without a prescription. Other charges include single counts of cannabis possession, drug paraphernalia possession, and driving under the influence of drugs.
Montanez had access to the drugs because she was a healthcare contractor working within the Polk County Jail. The contract was through Corizon Health, a company that provides healthcare services and pharmacy services to prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in 26 states. Montanez is a Corizon Health employee.
When she was pulled over, Montanez told the police officer that she had taken the pills from the jail because they were scheduled to be disposed of or destroyed. In a statement, Corizon Health said that it was “unacceptable” for any nurse to take custody of prescription medications intended for inmates. Standard policy for the company is for unused pills to be returned to the pharmacy that prescribed them.
This case highlights the importance of drug testing for healthcare practitioners or other workers who have access to prescription medications. Someone from Corizon Health told WFLA News Channel 8 that its employees do go through criminal history checks and drug tests before beginning their contracts with prisons or jails. However, Corizon does not conduct these checks: in most cases, the protocol is for local sheriff’s offices to vet Corizon’s healthcare professionals for criminal history and drug use. If those checks don’t return red flags, the sheriff’s department will issue a security clearance allowing the individual to work in the correctional facility in question.
Regular repeat drug tests, or random drug testing for healthcare workers are evidently not part of the drug test policy.