Added security measures

The findings shed new light on a long-standing problem in Minnesota nursing homes and hospitals.

From 2005 to 2011, Minnesota health care facilities reported about 250 cases of stolen or missing prescription drugs. A state-appointed task force of law enforcement and heath officials released the 2012 report following a spike in prescription drug abuse.

Since then, Minnesota hospitals have adopted elaborate procedures to track opioids and other painkillers. Some have added surveillance cameras, and many use locked drug cabinets and bar-code tracking of medications.

Nursing homes, too, are adopting new strategies.

Ecumen, one of the largest owners of long-term care homes, focuses on training and educating new employees on how to prevent drug diversion. Every shift, nurses are tasked with counting the narcotics and controlled substances.

Jennifer Severson, director of communications for Ecumen, said the company has not experienced a recent major drug diversion incident. A resident in pain at the Ecumen Lakeshore nursing home exposed a nurse’s theft of hundreds of painkillers in 2012.

“It’s really about deterrence and having good sound policies in place and practices,” Severson said.

To prevent drug theft or diversion, the Health Department recommends:

• Reporting any concerns to a doctor or caregiver’s employer.

• Knowing your medications and doses.

• Disposing of unused medications properly.

• Listening to family members complaining of pain when their medical log shows they received their medications.