Colorado Medical Board Disciplines Three Psychiatrists For Wrongly Prescribing Psych Drugs

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

Three Colorado-licensed psychiatrists were disciplined by the Colorado Medical Board in April for unprofessional conduct that involved wrongly prescribing psychiatric drugs to their patients.

  • Ronald R. Berges, formerly employed by a Littleton psychiatric facility, prescribed a sedative, a benzodiazepine, and narcotic pain medications to a patient despite knowing the individual had a history of substance abuse and dependence and was exhibiting drug-seeking behavior, according to a Board document. Berges also continued prescribing Valium and Fentanyl, which can cause respiratory depression, to another substance abuser and failed to verify the doses of the drugs the patient told him he was getting.  The Medical Board sent Berges a letter of admonition and required him to complete a prescribing course.  Berges is now practicing in Iowa.
  • Jonathan B. Covey, of Colorado Springs, has been put on indefinite probation by the Medical Board for confusing the dosages of two mood stabilizers prescribed to a patient, and for his insensitivity and poor communication with another patient. In addition to probation, the Board sent Covey a letter of admonition and required him to complete an ethics program and communications course.
  • Richard L. Wallingford III, of Montrose, received a letter of admonition from the Board for failing to review the hospital discharge summary of a patient with a history of addiction before re-starting her on controlled substances. The Board further stated: “Your communication, coordination of care, and indefinite use of benzodiazepines without a discussion of alternatives or a possible reduction in use is below the standard of care for a Suboxone patient with a long history of addiction to both street and prescription drugs.”  Suboxone is a drug used to treat opiate addiction.  The Board warned Wallingford that any further such complaints could result in the Board starting formal disciplinary proceedings against his license to practice.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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Erie Psychiatrist Disciplined For Improper Prescribing And Romantic Relationship With Patient

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

An Erie psychiatrist specializing in addiction psychiatry has been put on indefinite probation by the Colorado Medical Board after admitting he wrongly prescribed controlled substances to a female patient, failed to maintain proper records of his prescribing and treatment of her, and engaged in a romantic relationship with her.

Halbert B. Miller was publicly disciplined by the Medical Board with indefinite probation effective March 16, a letter of admonition, and orders to complete a professional boundaries course and a prescribing course in response to his actions, which are unprofessional conduct under Colorado law.

Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).  Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations.  One in three physicians who were disciplined for inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

Miller, who is also licensed in North Dakota, had been disciplined by that state’s medical board for the same misconduct, which it termed “unprofessional, unethical and/or dishonorable conduct that is likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public.”

Miller was previously disciplined by the Colorado and Massachusetts Medical Boards.

After failing to renew his Massachusetts license in 2013, Miller continued to practice psychiatry without a license.  He also fraudulently claimed in his license renewal application that he was Board-certified in addiction psychiatry, but the certification had expired in 2008.  In 2014, the Massachusetts Medical Board publicly reprimanded Miller and fined him $2,500 for this misconduct.

Following the actions taken by the Massachusetts Board, the Colorado Medical Board sent a letter of admonition to Miller in 2015, stating that his actions were also unprofessional conduct under Colorado law and warning him that any similar conduct in the future could lead to formal disciplinary action against his Colorado license.

Miller currently lists addiction psychiatry as his specialty in his online profile.

The Colorado Medical Board monthly disciplinary action summary lists Miller’s address as Erie, while the Department of Regulatory Agencies license lookup lists it as Lafayette.  Online search results indicate he practiced in Boulder.

If you or someone you know is the victim of inappropriate behavior by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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Cody Psychiatrist Specializing In Addiction Treatment Facing Multiple Charges Related To Substance Abuse

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Cody psychiatrist specializing in addiction treatment is facing a charge of felony aggravated assault with a vehicle for a head-on collision allegedly caused by his inhaling an intoxicating substance while driving.

Matthew V. Hopkins allegedly inhaled chemical fumes from a cleaning product while driving, passed out and crashed head-on into another vehicle.  The passenger in the other vehicle was hospitalized.

In addition to the felony charge, Hopkins is charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a toxic substance.

Hopkins is also facing a prior charge of driving under the influence, after allegedly hitting a parked vehicle while drunk five months earlier.  Other charges in that incident include having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle and leaving the scene of a crash.

Hopkins is a psychiatrist in private practice in Cody.  His listing in the Wyoming Medical Board physician directory shows addiction psychiatry as one of his specialties.  His website for his practice highlights his experience in addiction psychiatry.

Hopkins’ history of substance abuse goes back more than a decade.  His medical license was suspended in New Hampshire in 2003 for an alcohol problem and for writing fake prescriptions for Adderall for himself.  He entered a recovery program.

After moving to Wyoming, he agreed in 2009 to continue in a similar program.  Two findings of noncompliance in 2011 led, first, to a stayed six-month suspension of his license in July that year, and then a six-month suspension that November, according to data on the Wyoming Medical Board’s disciplinary action list.  In 2015, the Medical Board granted Hopkins’ petition to remove all restrictions and conditions related to his medical license.

Hopkins still has a full and unrestricted Wyoming medical license, according to the Medical Board website.

If you know of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker with a substance abuse problem, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

 

 

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Denver Psychiatrist Disciplined For Misconduct with Sexually Obsessed Patient

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

A Denver psychiatrist has been disciplined by the state licensing board for unprofessional conduct with a patient who became sexually fixated on him during treatment.

Steve Sarche failed to terminate his doctor-patient relationship with a patient who developed erotomania during treatment that lasted from approximately November 2008 through July 2012, according to a Colorado Medical Board public document posted online.

Erotomania is defined as excessive sexual desire, or the delusional belief that one is the object of another person’s love or sexual desire.

The Medical Board also found that Sarche crossed professional boundaries by seeing the patient outside of his office, and by continuing to communicate with the patient after the professional relationship was finally terminated.

The Board found that the behavior was unprofessional conduct under state law and issued an order, effective February 27, under which Sarche agreed to a disciplinary letter from the Board, indefinite probation, and completing an ethics program and professional boundaries course.

Psychiatrists account for the largest percentage of doctors with boundary violations, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.  Boundary violations occur when doctors use their position of trust and authority for their own pleasure or benefit (or the benefit of others).

Similarly, a 2001 study  published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that one in three physicians (34%) who were disciplined at least partly because of their inappropriate personal contact with patients were psychiatrists.

If a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker has acted improperly with you or someone you know, we want to talk with you.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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Mother Who Killed Her Kids Before Committing Suicide Was On Antidepressants

The Highlands Ranch mother who recently shot and killed her two young sons before turning the gun on herself was on antidepressants, making the incident yet another stunningly tragic act of violence linked to psychiatric drugs.

Jennifer Laber had two antidepressants, desmethylvenlafaxine and bupropion, in her system when she took the lives of her sons, ages 3 and 5, and then ended her own life on November 29, according to the autopsy report released by the Douglas County Coroner’s Office.

Desmethylvenlafaxine, marketed as Pristiq among other trade names, has known side effects that include depression and suicidal thoughts and actions.  Pristiq was ranked #10 on the list of the top 10 prescription drugs most linked to violence compiled by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in 2010, after analyzing reports of drug side effects filed with the FDA.

The other antidepressant Laber was taking, bupropion, is marketed as Wellbutrin and Zyban among other trade names, and its known side effects include suicidal thoughts and attempts and thoughts of hurting or killing others.

Laber also was taking the anti-convulsant drug lamotrigine, marketed under the trade name Lamictal, which is sometimes prescribed for depression.  Known side effects of Lamictal include changes in mood, aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

The 38-year-old mother was prescribed all three of these drugs despite her long history of depression, which included suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, according to the autopsy report.

Laber is not the first Colorado mother on antidepressants who killed her children.

Stephanie Rochester, a 34-year old mother in Superior, was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft the week before she smothered her infant son in his crib in 2011.

A 38-year-old Lamar mother, Rebekah Amaya, was on antidepressants when she drowned her 6-month-old son and 4-year-old daughter in their bathtub in 2003.

To date, 160 drug regulatory agency warnings from 11 countries and 225 research studies from 31 countries have warned about antidepressants’ dangerous side effects, which include:

  • suicide, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal attempts
  • hostility, violence or aggression
  • self-harm
  • mania or psychosis
  • hallucinations or delusions
  • depression
  • homicide and homicidal thoughts

Half of the top 10 prescription drugs most linked to violence are antidepressants, according to the 2010 study from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

Research Showing Antidepressants Are Neither Safe Nor Effective

Numerous research studies point to antidepressants being harmful, ineffective, and an obstacle to recovery from depression.  Among the more recent studies:

  • Researchers in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that antidepressants can cause chronic and deepening depression in adults and suggest that discontinuing the drugs is the solution. (See important “Warning” below on discontinuing antidepressants.)
  • A 2012 report from the Associate Director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School, an expert who has studied the effects of placebos (pills with no drug in them, or “sugar pills”) for 36 years, has concluded that antidepressants are no more effective than sugar pills for most people – and the placebo has none of antidepressants’ dangerous side effects.
  • In a 2012 research paper published in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology, a team of researchers reviewing previous studies of the effects of antidepressants concluded that, by disrupting many different processes in the body that are regulated by serotonin, antidepressants are actually doing patients more harm than good.
  • In a 2015 study posted by the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, researchers who reviewed prior research on antidepressants concluded the unproven theory that low levels of the brain chemical serotonin cause depression appears to be wrong, and that the best available evidence appears to show there is more serotonin in depressed individuals, not less – which actually makes antidepressants an obstacle to recovery from depression.

An epidemic of mothers killing their children – and doing so by more and more violent methods – began in the early 1990’s, according to Ann Blake Tracy, executive director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness.  “These [mothers] were often described as the very best and most caring mothers,” she notes.

What was driving these mothers to such violence?  “The most common denominator was the use of an antidepressant by the mother who had killed her children,” Tracy said.

Antidepressants Are The Most Common Denominator in Mass Murders

Beyond the tragic instances of mothers taking the lives their children, antidepressants are the most frequent common denominator in other “inexplicable” acts of violence and mass murder.

At least 35 school-related acts of violence in the U.S., including at least 14 school shootings, have been committed by individuals taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, especially antidepressants.  (In other school shootings, information about the shooters’ psychiatric drug use was not released.)

In Colorado, shooters in the mass murders at Columbine High School and at an Aurora movie theater were driven by antidepressants.

Tracy points out that the same common denominator of antidepressants is found in other mass murders, such as the mass murders committed by the truck driver who plowed into a crowd and killed 84 people this past summer in France, the German Wings co-pilot who deliberately crashed his jet into the French Alps and killed 150 people in 2015, and the bus driver who crashed into the wall of a Swiss tunnel and killed 28 people in 2012.

Tracy, an expert who frequently testifies on the adverse effects of antidepressants, points out that antidepressant drugs are most similar in action to the hallucinogens LSD and PCP.

“Neither homicide nor suicide is an acceptable ‘side effect’ to what we are calling safe and effective ‘medications,’” she said.

Warning: Anyone wishing to discontinue an antidepressant or any other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know experienced violence or suicidal thoughts or actions from taking an antidepressant or any other psychiatric drugs, please report it to the FDA by clicking here.  And we want to talk to you about your experience.  You can contact us by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.

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New Study Raises Safety Concerns About Psychiatric Drug Use in the U.S.

A new report from researchers analyzing psychiatric drug use in the U.S. in 2013 has added to already existing concerns that older Americans are being overdrugged.

It also suggests that many Americans may be taking psychiatric drugs because they have become drug dependent, or are not discontinuing the drugs because of withdrawal symptoms.

One in six U.S. adults aged 18 to 85 reported taking an antidepressant, an antipsychotic, an anti-anxiety drug or sleeping pills in 2013, according to the study, published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

“I follow this area, so I knew the numbers would be high,” said Thomas J. Moore, a researcher at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the lead author of the analysis.  “But in some populations, the rates are extraordinary.”

For example, among adults 60 to 85 years old, one in four was taking at least one psychiatric drug.  That rate (25.1%) is more than 2½ times higher than the rate (9%) for adults 18 to 30 years old.

These 2013 statistics cover a period of time shortly after a 2011 investigation by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which found that nursing homes were giving many elderly residents powerful antipsychotic drugs that put their lives at risk, just to sedate them and make them more manageable.

The new study also found that nearly 85% of those taking psychiatric drugs had been taking them long term, having filled three or more prescriptions in 2013 or having taken the drug since 2011.  This long term use also concerned researchers.

“To discover that eight in 10 adults who have taken psychiatric drugs are using them long term raises safety concerns, given that there’s reason to believe some of this continued use is due to dependence and withdrawal symptoms,” said Moore.

Warning: Anyone wishing to discontinue a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

 If you or someone you know has experienced adverse effects from a psychiatric drug, please report it to the FDA here.  And we want to talk to you about your experience.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Study Finds Antidepressants Double The Risk Of Suicide And Violence in Adults With No Mental Disorders

A study recently published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine concluded that antidepressants double the risk of events leading to suicide and violence in adults with no signs of any mental disorder.

As the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has been warning for years, the study confirms that antidepressant drugs themselves cause violence and suicide.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires its most serious black-box warning on all antidepressants to warn that the drugs increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in young adults ages 18 to 24, but the warning does not currently extend to adults older than 24.

The link between antidepressants and violence, witnessed firsthand in Colorado in the deadly actions of Eric Harris at Columbine and James Holmes at an Aurora movie theater, is not yet reflected in any FDA black-box warning.

The new study, which reviewed published clinical trials found in online searches and clinical study reports obtained from European Union and United Kingdom drug regulators, concluded that the harm being caused by antidepressants extends to all age groups and that the harm includes violence.

bullets“While it is now generally accepted that antidepressants increase the risk of suicide and violence in children and adolescents (although many psychiatrists still deny this), most people believe that these drugs are not dangerous for adults,” the study authors wrote.

“This is a potentially lethal misconception.”

The researchers calculated that one of every 16 mentally healthy adults taking antidepressants experienced harm related to suicide or violence.

Warning: Anyone wishing to discontinue an antidepressant or any other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know experienced violence or suicidal thoughts or actions from taking an antidepressant or any other psychiatric drug, please report it to the FDA by clicking here.  And we want to talk to you about your experience.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Psychiatrist: Columbine and Aurora Theater Shooters Were Driven By Psychiatric Drugs

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A psychiatrist involved in the legal actions related to the shootings at Columbine High School and the Aurora Century theater has concluded that psychiatric drugs were the main contributing factor in both mass murders.

Peter Breggin, M.D., a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, has been involved in criminal and civil cases related to a number of mass murders.  He recently reported his conclusions concerning the role of psychiatric drugs in five mass murders, including the two worst in Colorado history.

We previously reported that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes experienced his first episode of mania after taking the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline) prescribed by his psychiatrist, at which time he wrote in his journal that his hatred was unleashed.  Weeks later, Holmes went on the shooting rampage in which he killed 12 moviegoers and injured 70 others in July 2012.

We also previously reported that Eric Harris became obsessed with homicidal and suicidal thoughts within weeks of starting on the antidepressant Zoloft.  He was then switched to another violence-linked antidepressant, Luvox, which he was taking at the time he and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 12 students and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in April 1999.

Zoloft and Luvox are in the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  To date, 26 warnings by international drug regulatory authorities and 34 studies have warned that the adverse effects of SSRIs include mania, aggression, suicide and violence.  Both Zoloft and Luvox are on a list of prescription drugs with the most incidents of violence reported to the FDA, according to a 2010 study published by the Public Library of Science ONE (PLoS One).

Without the SSRI antidepressant, Holmes “probably would not have committed mass murder”

In his recent report, Breggin makes this observation about the psychiatric treatment James Holmes received: “Given the [psychiatrist’s] concerns about [James Holmes’] psychotic thinking and his obviously violent tendencies, exposing Holmes to Zoloft was like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

Breggin says Holmes was on Zoloft for about 94 days before abruptly stopping around June 30, just 20 days before his deadly rampage.  But it was not the sudden withdrawal that brought on the violence, according to Breggin.

“An abrupt withdrawal might have worsened his condition, but the main contributing factor to the violence was his lengthy exposure to a drug that worsened his condition and drove him into psychosis,” he writes.  “He had a manic-like psychosis while taking the Zoloft and this would not have abated for some time after stopping the medication.”

Breggin’s conclusion: “I have no doubt that Zoloft contributed to Holmes’ escalating violence and that without it he probably would not have committed mass murder.”

Lengthy exposure to SSRI antidepressants brought on Eric Harris’ violence

Concerning Eric Harris, Breggin noted in his recent report that the Columbine shooter did not begin planning his violent assault until he had been on antidepressants for months.

Harris was switched to the SSRI antidepressant Luvox in April 1998, a year before the attack on Columbine High School, and the autopsy toxicology report confirmed it was still in his system at the time of the shooting.

Again, it was the lengthy exposure to Luvox that brought on Harris’ violence, according to Breggin, who noted that the writings in Harris’ journal “grew increasingly bizarre and violent over the period in which he continued to take increasing amounts of Luvox.”

Breggin states that psychiatrists not only failed to detect or prevent the violence perpetrated by Holmes and Harris, but “gave drugs that caused violence or amplified any pre-existing violent tendencies.”

Why are these drugs on the market?

Breggin points out that “careful scrutiny of the FDA testing for drug approval shows that antidepressants do not work any better than placebo, but that they do make many people very mentally disturbed and increase the rate of suicide and violence.”

“Why are these drugs on the market?” he asks.

Breggin concludes: “Curtailing or stopping the use of SSRIs and other antidepressants would vastly diminish an infinite number of aggressive and violent acts committed by individuals taking these drugs….”

If you or someone you know has experienced violent outcomes from taking SSRI antidepressants or any other psychiatric drug, please report it to the FDA by clicking here.  And we want to talk to you about your experience.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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Psychiatrist’s License Among Four Remaining Suspended For Authorizing Excessive Marijuana Plant Possession

A Denver District Court judge decided against reinstating the medical licenses of a psychiatrist and three other physicians who allegedly authorized the possession of an excessively high number of marijuana plants for hundreds of individuals without medical necessity.

In his August 12 decision, the judge said he did not have the jurisdiction to make a ruling because the case had not yet been reviewed in an administrative proceeding.

The Colorado Medical Board had summarily suspended the licenses of the four doctors, effective July 19.

One of the four, Deborah Kaye Parr of Durango, practiced as a psychiatrist providing addiction treatment.

The Board’s order of suspension for Parr stated that from January 1 to May 25, 2016, she signed more than 300 medical marijuana certifications authorizing individuals who did not have a diagnosis of cancer to possess 75 or more marijuana plants.

The standard number of plants a medical marijuana patient can grow is six, with a medical justification needed for more plants.

All four of the doctors with suspended licenses sued the state, claiming that there is no law or Medical Board rule prohibiting doctors from authorizing large plant counts.

The Medical Board maintained that it has the authority to determine whether a doctor’s treatment of patients is standard medical practice.

The Board found that authorizing more than 75 marijuana plants without a diagnosis of cancer falls “below generally accepted standard of medical practice and lacks medical necessity” and is, therefore, a violation of the Medical Practice Act in Colorado law.

Parr previously disciplined in Texas for controlled substances prescribing

Parr was previously disciplined by the Texas Medical Board, where she was licensed from 1998 to 2012, for her prescribing of controlled substances to two patients with a history of substance abuse.

According to the Texas Board, Parr prescribed increasing doses of a controlled substance without a documented rationale for one patient, and substituted opiates instead of trying to wean the other patient off Vicodin.

The Board found that Parr harmed the patients, that “the harm was severe and contributed to [their] addiction,” and that her actions constituted “increased potential of harm to the public.”  Parr’s failure to appear at a settlement conference was cited as an additional aggravating factor in determining the disciplinary action taken.

On June 4, 2010, the Texas Medical Board and Parr entered into an agreed order that publicly reprimanded her, fined her $10,000, and required her to complete educational courses.

The Colorado Medical Board followed the Texas Board’s action by sending Parr a letter of admonition in November 2010, warning her that “any repetition of such practice may lead to the commencement of formal disciplinary proceedings against your license to practice medicine” in Colorado.

Sara Carver, director of clinical operations for Southern Rockies Addiction Treatment Services, expressed concern about Parr’s history of prescribing opiate-based drugs to patients with a history of substance abuse, according to the Durango Herald.

“We…fear that her questionable prescribing practices spill over into her prescribing practices in addiction treatment as well,” Carver said.

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FT COLLINS PSYCHIATRIST’S LICENSE SUSPENDED AFTER EVIDENCE HE USED STUDENTS TO OBTAIN DRUGS

Part of the ongoing series:
You Be The Judge

The Colorado Medical Board has suspended a Fort Collins psychiatrist’s license over allegations he used medical students to divert prescription drugs for his own use.

Timothy Jay Allen, a psychiatrist formerly practicing at Fort Collins Neurology, was suspended on March 15, pending further action by the Board.

The Board took the emergency action over concern that Allen “used his medical license, along with his position of trust and supervision over medical students, to engage in prescription drug diversion” by asking students to fill prescriptions in their names and then give the drugs to him for his use.

Based on the information the Board reviewed, and following Allen’s appearance at a pre-suspension hearing, the Board concluded it had “objective and reasonable grounds to believe and finds that [Allen] deliberately and willfully violated the Medical Practice Act and/or that the public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action.”

A summary of the inquiry leading to the suspension is found in the Board’s Order of Suspension, posted and open to public view on the state Department of Regulatory Agencies website.

If you or someone you know has information about wrongful behavior by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health worker, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We welcome your comments on this article.

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