Bethel Twp., Mad River Twp.: Two cases of reported stolen EMS drugs in 2019

A Clark County Sheriff’s Office report says medication were stolen from the Bethel Twp. Fire Department in February — meaning there have been at least two cases of drugs that have been swiped at Clark County township fire departments over the last six months.

The public record was obtained by the Springfield News-Sun after a reader alerted the paper following earlier reporting on a sheriff’s investigation into stolen drugs at the Mad River Twp. Fire and EMS Department on July 5.

Bethel Twp. Fire Chief Jacob King confirmed the incident took place and the sheriff’s office and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy were alerted of the incident. He declined further comment.

In the Mad River case, according to a different report from the sheriff’s office, several different drugs were stolen from medic bags such as strong pain killers and anxiety relievers — including fentanyl.

It is not clear from the report what was taken from the theft at Bethel Twp.

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It is also not clear from the sheriff’s office report how someone was able to access the drugs at Mad River Twp. or Bethel Twp.

The medic bags from which the drugs were taken are part of the drug bag exchange program, which is adminstered by the Greater Miami Valley EMS Council. Both township fire departments are members of the council.

When any discrepancy or theft happens regarding the drugs inside the drug bag or the bag itself, the council must be notified immediately. The council then decides what further action needs to be taken.

If a controlled substance is stolen, the DEA is also contacted.

According to policies set out by the EMS Council and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the drugs and the drug bags should have several layers of security — including a tagging system on each section of the drug bag and a secure secondary locking system.

The council’s president, David Gerstner, said medication being stolen from a department has been a rare incident in the drug bag program’s over 30 year history.

The council currently serves over 120 agencies and oversees over 950 drug bags in hospitals, fire departments, EMS agencies and health care organizations.

He said past incidents have been traced back to citizens or in some instances, health care employees.

“We average about one incident a year — there’s a theft from a drug bag or the entire bag gets stolen” he said.

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Gerstner said the only medication thefts he knows about this year are from the two Clark County agencies.

“It happens. It happens in health care facilities of all types, and EMS is health care,” Gerstner said. “People who steal drugs from us are potentially putting their own lives at risk because they may not know what all the drugs in that drug bag are, and they may just try different things that have lethal consequences — but they’re also putting other people at risk because that means we don’t have the drugs that we need to take care of the next person who’s having a medical emergency.”

Mad River Twp. Fire Chief Tim Wendling responded to the Springfield News-Sun Tuesday and declined to comment on his department’s theft because the sheriff’s office investigation is ongoing.

That investigation is ongoing, as is the investigation into the Bethel Twp. theft.

Gerstner said there is no timetable for how long an investigation could last — it’s comparable to any other criminal case in which all evidence, or lack of, has to be considered.

No one has been charged in connection to either case.

The Springfield News-Sun broke the story about drugs being stolen from medic bags at Mad River Twp. over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. A follow-up investigation found that Bethel Twp. also had a case of theft earlier in the year. The Greater Miami Valley EMS Council says they average only about one theft per year.

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