Paramedic on ambulance shift injects himself with fentanyl meant for patients, feds say

A paramedic injected himself with two powerful, pain-relieving medications while working an ambulance shift in Mississippi, federal prosecutors said.

The former Baptist Ambulance paramedic, 35, of Oxford, used both fentanyl and morphine meant for ambulance patients while he was on the job in October 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi.

He tried hiding his theft of the narcotics by refilling the empty vials with saline solution — endangering patients in need of pain management, prosecutors said.

A judge sentenced the man to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $30,405 in restitution on March 23, the attorney’s office announced in a March 24 news release.

He previously pleaded guilty to tampering with opioids, court documents show.

“Actions like the ones committed by the defendant place citizens in grave danger of harm and bodily injury and cannot be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner said in a statement.

The man is now sober after losing his professional paramedic’s license following the incident, which “fortunately” didn’t harm any patients, Tony Farese, his attorney, told McClatchy News in a statement on March 27.

“When his crime was discovered, (he) admitted his wrongdoing, resigned, and accepted responsibility for his conduct,” Farese said.

Both fentanyl and morphine are opioids approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat pain. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is estimated to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, which is a non-synthetic substance, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The man initially became addicted to opioids after a tearing his ACL in high school, according to Farese, who said his client subsequently began abusing hydrocodone pills.

At some point, he had gotten control of his addiction until he started suffering from PTSD triggered from a fatal car crash he responded to as an EMT/paramedic in Oxford, Farese said. During the accident, a garbage truck struck and killed a father and his two children as he drove them to school, according to Farese.

The man “was haunted by this wreck” and began “self-medicating by intravenous use of opioids, which led to his criminal conduct in this case,” Farese added.

As part of the former paramedic’s sentencing, the judge ordered him to participate in a substance abuse testing and treatment program supervised by a probation officer, according to court documents.

He must also enroll in a mental health treatment program supervised by his probation officer, court documents show.

The man has already completed a drug rehabilitation program that he self-admitted himself to and remains in continued treatment, Farese said.

He “accepted full responsibility for his conduct, made every effort to correct all wrongs he committed in this matter, and advocates to others to seek treatment before their addictions destroy their lives and the lives of others,” Farese said. “This is just another example of how destructive opioid addiction is and how none of us are immune from its reach.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates millions of people living in the U.S. have an opioid addiction.

Baptist Ambulance, the company the former paramedic worked for, cares for Baptist Memorial Health care patients in Mississippi, west Tennessee and Arkansas.

Oxford is about 160 miles northeast of Jackson.

If you or a loved one shows signs of substance use disorder, you can seek help by calling the national hotline at 1-800-662-4357 or find treatment using SAMHSA's online locator.

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