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Nurse aide accused of taking painkiller patches for himself

A nursing assistant who police say ripped two patches containing a pain-killing narcotic from the shoulder of an 83-year-old nursing home patient was in Pinellas County Jail on Monday.

Richard Scott Smith, 42, who formerly worked at Cypress Palms, an assisted-living facility on Alt. Keene Road in Largo, is charged with one count of burglary and one count of possession of a controlled substance. His bail is set at $7,500 for each count.

The patches contained a morphine-like drug. Smith told police after his arrest that he "did this to assist his heroin habit that he claimed to have cured over 20 years ago," said a Largo police report.

Smith was employed by a nursing service and had been assigned to Cypress Palms. After patients' families complained about him, Cypress Palms asked in August that he not be sent back there.

About dinner time Sept. 15, Smith, wearing a white uniform, rode an elevator to the seventh floor of Cypress Palms, looked around to see if anyone was watching, and then sneaked into Nelda Devlieger's room, Largo police said.

Smith told Mrs. Devlieger "her patches were on wrong," according to a police report, and removed them. Mrs. Devlieger told police Smith hurt her when he removed the patches.

The patches contained a timed-release narcotic painkiller similar to morphine. Jack Faust, a pharmacist with Rite Price Discount Pharmacy on Highland Avenue in Clearwater, said the drug is for chronic pain.

After removing the patches, Smith left the room, police said.

Later, an employee found Mrs. Devlieger without her patches. Mrs. Devlieger wasn't sure who removed them, but after supervisors checked with the staff on duty, they learned that no one working had touched them.

However, several employees and residents had seen Smith in the halls. Smith was no stranger to the staff and some of the residents because he had worked at Cypress Palms up until a month before.

Terry Russell, executive director of health care for Sabal Palms and Cypress Palms, said Smith was employed by a nursing service that supplies health care employees to nursing centers.

In August, Russell said, he asked the nursing service not to send Smith anymore "when family members of some of our patients complained about him."

Smith, who lives at 3832 21st Ave. N in St. Petersburg, was arrested six days after the Sept. 15 incident by St. Petersburg police.

According to a Largo police report, Smith told police he sneaked into the Largo nursing care center on two occasions and removed patches from two patients. The other patient was in a room on the first floor, according to the report.

Smith denied taking patches from patients at any other nursing center in the area. But in August, according to a St. Petersburg police report, a nursing supervisor at Carrington Place, 10501 Roosevelt Blvd., called police after discovering narcotic patches missing from a patient's body.

The supervisor suspected Smith, who had reported for work for the first time that day at Carrington Place. Although police could not prove that Smith had taken the patches and no charges were filed, the nursing supervisor dismissed Smith.

St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Doniel said Smith was given a "no trespass" warning and was escorted off the grounds.