Attorney: Jail doctor pilfered pills because her hands were swollen


The attorney for Dr. Brenda Ellis said his client took three to five Lasix pills due to swelling in her hands and that’s what led to her placement in the diversion program and resignation from working for NaphCare at the Montgomery County Jail.

Ellis, the former top medical officer at the jail, recently admitted to a 2014 theft and theft of drugs in exchange for avoiding prosecution, according to county officials.

Ellis was fingerprinted and had her mugshot taken at the jail on Aug. 24 and was accepted into a diversion program Aug. 29, according to a prosecutor’s office spokesman.

RELATED: Former jail medical director admits to stealing drugs

Attorney Anthony Comunale said Ellis was interviewed by investigators who were checking out claims made by a terminated employee.

“There really wasn’t any (criminal) complaint,” said Comunale, who said nurses in the jail suggested to Ellis to take the prescription drug Lasix to help her swollen hands. Comunale added that Lasix is not a narcotic.

Ellis was the medical administrator at the jail and worked for the company NaphCare, which provides inmate medical services at the jail through a contract with the county. Under the current NaphCare contract, the county will pay the company up to $3.55 million a year through 2019.

RELATED: County blames health care provider for jail inmate’s injuries

Contacted this week, Ellis declined to comment.

The allegations against her followed a State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy investigation into improper handling of controlled substances at the jail from 2011 to 2015.

In July, the state pharmacy board reached a settlement agreement with NaphCare that called for the company to pay the board $7,000, provide more staff training and remove Ellis as the person responsible for compliance with the jail’s pharmacy license.

RELATED: Montgomery County Jail health care provider faces discipline

“NaphCare agrees to never use Dr. Ellis as a Responsible Person on any of its Ohio licenses,” the agreement states.

Comunale said neither he nor Ellis knew about the pharmacy board settlement with Naphcare, but that Ellis resigned from her position because people can’t work at the jail if they are in a diversion program. Comunale said investigators used a search warrant to go through Ellis’ files and found nothing of interest.

As part of the pharmacy board agreement, the company neither admitted nor denied fault.

Bradley Cain, spokesman and general counsel of Alabama-based NaphCare, said in a recent interview that the company was unaware of the allegations against Ellis but that changes were made to address the issues identified by the pharmacy board.

“We have made implementation of changes based on the settlement agreement we entered into with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy,” Cain said. “Everything outlined in that agreement we’re in compliance with today.”

Cain said the company has contracts with jails in Montgomery, Franklin and Hamilton counties and has had no problems at other facilities.

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