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Anchorage detox program suspends operations

Alaska Dispatch

Operations at Ernie Turner Center, one of four medically monitored detox programs in Alaska, have been suspended after a state audit by the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health found that some nurses were performing tasks beyond the scope of their practice, the Anchorage Press reports.

The center, run by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, has been open since 2002.  It is the largest of two in-patient alcohol and drug detox programs in Anchorage. More than half the clients treated at Ernie Turner are alcohol abusers requiring detox.

Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, had been performing patient assessment and monitoring tasks not permitted under their licenses, according to state regulators. The Division of Behavioral Health notified the Board of Nursing, which asked the center for “clarification” about the LPNs working in the program. Cook Inlet Tribal Council then decided to close the program in a move to protect the nurses, who could face individual penalties from the nursing board.

Cook Inlet Tribal has good reason to be concerned for their LPNs; the Board of Nursing has already ruled against two nurses performing detox assessments in jails and prisons.

Adapting the 12-bed detox program to comply with state regulations could cost up to $500,000 a year, Kristin English, Cook Inlet’s Tribal Council chief operating officer, told Anchorage Press. Cook Inlet Tribal Council is working with the state to hash out a solution.

English says that center was not aware that some duties performed by LPNs were outside of their scope of practice, adding that patient safety has never been compromised. She is asking the board for clarification on the issue, and notes that the Board of Nursing does not have any members who specialize in alcohol or drug abuse rehabilitation.

Read much, much more from the Anchorage Press.