Illinois police arrested a nurse after he allegedly stole fentanyl patches from the bodies of ill, elderly patients at two rehabilitation homes where he worked.
James Rellihan, 31, is accused of going to the Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center on his day off, Feb. 24, where he took three fentanyl patches off a terminally ill man. He allegedly told the patient, “It will be OK,” as he removed the patches. Rellihan allegedly entered his former job, Heritage Health in Normal (Ill), two days later and stole fentanyl patches off a man suffering from dementia, The Pantagraph reported.
Rellihan is being held on a $50,000 bond, “given the egregious nature of the offenses,” McLean County assistant state’s attorney Jeff Horve said in a court statement Thursday. Rellihan “denied taking, using or selling” the fentanyl patches, Horve added.
Fentanyl theft cases are rising amid the national opioid epidemic. An Indiana paramedic was recently arrested after admitting to stealing fentanyl vials from ambulance supplies while treating victims at accident scenes.
St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center employee Jeanan Joseph admitted to the theft in November — the only paramedic with access to the substance to test positive for fentanyl during a subsequent drug screening.
North Carolina authorities also arrested a nurse found stealing vials of fentanyl from a Winston-Salem hospital Dec. 18, which resulted in an officer to almost suffer an overdose. Forsyth Medical Center fired Brown, following her arrest — the North Carolina Board of Nursing suspended her nursing license.
Fentanyl trumped heroin as the deadliest U.S. substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The substance can be anywhere from 50-to-100 times more powerful than morphine.
Drug overdoses are nationally the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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