In first-of-its-kind move, counselors assist patients while Fayette County doctor is arrested |

In first-of-its-kind move, counselors assist patients while Fayette County doctor is arrested

Megan Guza
Megan Guza | Tribune-Review
Representatives from the state Department of Health as well as local drug and alcohol counselors were on hand as federal agents arrested a Fayette County doctor for fraud and illegal prescribing practices on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in an effort to direct them to alternative treatments.

Alongside local police and federal agents raiding Dr. Emilio Ramon Navarro’s Fayette County office on Monday were drug and alcohol counselors helping patients find alternatives as their doctor was arrested on federal charges.

It’s the first time such a rapid-response team has been deployed during the arrest of a medical professional, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said Wednesday.

“We know that while shuttering an office might mean the end of a doctor’s illegal behavior, it marks the beginning of an opioid-dependent patient’s quest for a new prescriber,” he said. “Sometimes the street is the first choice.”

Navarro, 58, of Coal Center, was indicted on 29 charges of health care fraud and illegal prescribing for allegedly trading drugs for sex with one of his patients.

“He was exploiting the addiction of one of his patients for his own personal gain,” Brady said.

He said that when authorities arrived at the office at 7 a.m., 50 people were in line outside the office, which opens at 8:30 a.m.

Representatives from the state Department of Health and drug and alcohol counselors from Washington and Fayette counties engaged those patients as the raid happened, handing out flyers on where to seek legitimate care, where to find a new doctor or pharmacy and how to get into opioid addiction treatment if needed.

Brady said counselors were able to direct about half of those patients to other medical professionals. He said the goal is to get those who legitimately need prescription drugs to a new doctor and those who need addiction treatment into a treatment facility.

He said the Department of Health is working on guidelines so such rapid-response teams can act statewide when a provider is arrested, leaving opioid-dependent patients cut off.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine spoke on the issue last week during a conference for UPMC employees, saying individuals dependent upon their prescriptions can turn to street drugs if they’re left without other options.

“You can’t cut off patients,” she said. “If you have someone that’s been carried for three or five or 10 years on opioids, you cannot cut that person off — that patient is physiologically dependent on opioids.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Regional | Top Stories
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.