During the later days of July 2016, Alaska State Troopers notified the Administration of Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) that an opioid diversion investigation involving several patients of a NSHC medical provider had begun. NSHC immediately began to cooperate with this investigation. In addition, NSHC began its own internal investigation regarding possible diversion of opioid prescription drugs being prescribed by a NSHC medical provider. As the internal investigation progressed, it became very clear that an excessive amount of opioid narcotics were being prescribed to a group of NSHC patients. NSHC requested that the provider voluntarily surrender their DEA controlled substance prescribing ability, and an agreement was reached that the provider would comply with the surrender. The Alaska State Medical Board was immediately notified of the surrender. NSHC was notified by the Alaska State Medical Board that it had begun an investigation into the prescribing habits of the provider. NSHC to-date has not been advised by the medical board that it has completed its investigation.
Alaska State Troopers referred its investigation to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Alaska Attorney General’s office for criminal investigation. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services joined this investigation and issued administrative subpoenas for documents regarding the prescribing practices of the NSHC provider. These investigations are still underway. The DEA deferred investigation to the Alaska state agencies and NSHC has fully cooperated with all investigations.
NSHC’s internal investigation was conducted by an outside entity so as to ensure a fair and impartial investigation would take place. The internal investigation spanned over a period of months and many witnesses were questioned including the provider who was given a full opportunity to give their side of the story. The NSHC investigation was presented in-full to the NSHC Board of Directors who fully supported the decision of NSHC Administration to no longer contract with the provider, thereby ending years of over-prescribing narcotics to a group of NSHC patients.
It is important to note that the NSHC Board of Directors is directly responsible for the health needs and safety of the Alaska Native people it serves. This responsibility is taken with utmost seriousness by each and every Board member. To have taken no action in this situation would be a violation of that trust to the citizens it serves. The Board of Directors would like to thank the current medical staff at NSHC for its courageous effort to identify and treat the many patients that were cast into addiction by this provider and for the tireless work in establishing a Pain Management Committee to ensure these patients were treated and properly taken care of.
NSHC will continue to cooperate with the above referenced investigations but wish to point out that the decision that each Board member supported to not renew the contract of the provider in question was not predicated on any external investigation. This decision was based on the NSHC internal investigation and the overwhelming evidence contained therein.
NSHC Board of Directors