If I were addicted to pills, I would work in home healthcare. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had this realization. There are many reasons that home healthcare is the perfect job for anybody with an addiction to prescription medication:
- Access to Prescription Medications: Most individuals who need homecare also need various types of medication. The individuals providing their care often have direct access to those medications. When a care provider takes the medication (either for their own use or to sell), it is called diversion.
- Vulnerable Population: The victims of drug diversion may not realize that their medications are being stolen or they may not be able to advocate for themselves.
- Lack of Supervision: Homecare providers generally lack direct supervision.
- Lots of “Traffic” in the Home: An individual receiving home health services typically has lots of different service providers coming in and out of their home: personal attendants, visiting nurses, hospice counselors, cleaning services, meal delivery, caseworkers, etc. When drug diversion is recognized, it is very difficult to determine who is responsible.
- Abundant Entry Level Work: Many homecare positions are entry level and may require little to no training. Additionally, most areas have a multitude of homecare providers to work for. If a provider gets caught by one company, she can simply move to a different one. Most types of homecare providers are not subject to any formal tracking system.
If I Were a Home Healthcare Provider, I Would Protect my Clients from Prescription Diversion
Any employer providing any type of homecare or home healthcare should take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their clients.
- Drug and Alcohol Policy and Testing: They should implement a strong drug and alcohol policy and testing program that includes commonly abused prescription drugs. The standard 5-panel drug test does not test for the most commonly abused prescription drugs.
- Background Checks: They should run background searches to ensure that potential employees do not have a history of drug related crimes. They should partner with a reputable background search provider who can help them determine which types of searches are most effective in their area.
- Client Education: They should provide education to their clients on how to avoid prescription drug diversion (see the tool below). This education will protect their clients from becoming victims of drug diversion and it will protect their employees from being unfairly accused of drug diversion.
Where are the numbers? I’m a numbers person, and I love to back everything with cold hard data. So where are the numbers? In my research, I have not found any relevant studies looking at prescription drug abuse among home health providers, or even healthcare providers in general. If you know of any data, please share it with me. Although the numbers are missing, I have heard enough stories in the field and read enough articles in the newspaper to feel confident that drug diversion by healthcare providers is a significant problem.
Contact Us If you need help implementing any of the above recommendations, please contact us. If you have any data related to prescription drug diversion by healthcare providers, please pass it along.
Prescription Drug Diversion Protection for Home Healthcare Providers
Use this tool to create a diversion protection guide to give to your clients.
NIDA guide to Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
Use this guide to determine which prescription medications are most likely to be abused.
New Hampshire Drug Drop Box Locations
This map indicates locations in New Hampshire where individuals can safely dispose of unwanted medications.