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Jail nurse charged with illegally handing out prescription medication

FILE "“ A nurse at the Uintah County Jail is accused of personally stockpiling the unused drugs of inmates and handing out prescription medication to at least two inmates without authorization.
FILE "“ A nurse at the Uintah County Jail is accused of personally stockpiling the unused drugs of inmates and handing out prescription medication to at least two inmates without authorization.
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VERNAL — A nurse at the Uintah County Jail is accused of personally stockpiling the unused drugs of inmates and handing out prescription medication to at least two inmates without authorization.

Helen Marie Bemis, 57, was charged Tuesday in 8th District Court with two counts of violation of the pharmacy practice act, a class A misdemeanor.

In March, the Vernal Police Department was asked to assist in an internal investigation by the Uintah County Sheriff's Office, according to a pair of search warrant affidavits filed in May.

The sheriff's office was notified by an inmate that she had been given an unauthoritized prescription.

"During the course of that investigation it was discovered that Helen Bemis is allegedly stockpiling prescription medications from previous inmates," an affidavit states. "It is alleged this medication is being stocked and re-prescribed by Helen Bemis."

Bemis allegedly used the medication to give at least one inmate a "GI cocktail," described as a mixture of an antacid and lidocaine. That inmate told investigators that Bemis said she was trying to help her, but her actions made the inmate uncomfortable, police say.

"Helen told her that she was given the medication without the doctor knowing about it. (The inmate) stated Helen told her that 'she was trying to help a sister out,'" the warrant states. "(The inmate) indicated she never signed for medication, which is out of the ordinary when receiving medication."

The inmate told authorities that Bemis also "told her 'don’t tell nobody,'" according to the warrant.

When questioned by investigators in April, Bemis allegedly said she was trying to help the inmate.

"Your affiant asked Helen if she hid any medication that was originally sent to be destroyed for the purpose of having medication on hand to help inmates. Helen denied ever hiding anything. However, video surveillance is available clearly showing Helen taking stock medication to be destroyed and placing it back on the shelves within the med room," the warrant states.

Bemis told investigators that stockpiling medication is common. The doctor and his assistant who manage the jail and four others confirmed that "based on the size of the Uintah County Jail, stock meds are important because of people coming in all the time," according to the warrant, and that it's too expensive for a facility like Uintah to have its own pharmacy like the larger county jails.

However, "the jail doesn’t want to have any stock medication on hand at the facility," and jail officials "are always conscientious about what’s going on with the medication" and workers document all medications "to keep track if stock medication is given out," the warrant states.

Bemis is scheduled to have an initial appearance on July 11.