Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

County paying $1 million to settle missing-drugs case at Kino Hospital

Pima County will pay $1 million over five years in a settlement of a 2004 case of missing narcotics at Kino Hospital, a federal spokeswoman said Friday.

The $1 million will be used to establish a three-pronged drug abuse prevention initiative in Tucson, said Sandra Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the settlement with the federal government in a closed-door session last week.

In early 2004, hospital officials discovered “several doses” of controlled substances were missing and notified police and the Drug Enforcement Administration, court documents show.

An audit found more than 470,000 missing painkillers including morphine, methadone, OxyContin and hydrocodone, with an estimated street value of $1 million, according to Citizen archives.

Many of the drugs had been sold on the streets, according to Citizen archives.

Pima County paid a $110,000 fine to the Arizona Board of Pharmacy in 2004, said Patti Woodcock, community relations director for the Pima County Health Department.

Shirley Thompson, then director of pharmacy at Kino, was fined $4,000 and put on probation for one year by the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy because the painkillers disappeared under her watch, according to Citizen archives.

Thompson no longer works for the county.

Months later, Pima County contracted with University Physicians Healthcare to run Kino. The nonprofit corporation oversees the medical practices of physicians who are faculty members of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. The hospital is now called University Physicians Hospital.

Under the settlement, the county will finance and develop a campaign to educate parents and teachers of teenagers in southern Arizona about the abuse of prescription drugs, according to court documents.

The county will also finance the development of a program to collect drug use information from people who have been arrested.

The information would help county officials assess treatment and law enforcement efforts, Raynor said.

The county will also finance the development of a voluntary drug treatment program within the Pima County Jail system, she said.

Pima County will determine how much money will go to each program, Woodcock said.

The funding will be in addition to programs, services and equipment already set out in the county’s annual budget, documents show.

At the end of each fiscal year, Pima County will have to submit a report with accounting records to the federal government.

Citizen Staff Writer Garry Duffy contributed to this report.

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