Payette Clinic’s co-owner denies overprescribing painkillers

Health department suspends her ability to prescribe opioids

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The attorney for a Vancouver nurse practitioner said Friday his client adamantly denies allegations she prescribed excessive amounts of painkillers to her patients.

Kelly M. Bell, co-owner of the Payette Clinic, lost her ability last month to prescribe narcotics for two years following a Washington Department of Health investigation into her practice. The investigation followed the December 2008 death of an Oregon teen who overdosed after smoking an oxycodone pill originally prescribed to a Payette patient.

Bell came under investigation when “numerous” patients complained to the Department of Health that she was prescribing extremely high amounts of opioids and “without appropriate assessment or appropriate ongoing monitoring,” according to DOH charging papers.

Don Grant, Bell’s Vancouver attorney, said Bell was prescribing what she felt were reasonable dosages of painkillers. Grant said he had medical experts prepared to testify that the dosages weren’t excessive.

The issue, Grant said, is that there’s no rule book dictating a proper dosage. It’s essentially at the discretion of a practitioner.

“The idea of how much opioids can be prescribed isn’t clearly defined in the standards,” he said. “Kelly denies overprescribing opioids. There’s no finding she did.”

Though health officials’ statement of charges allege Bell was overprescribing to at least nine patients, the final order calling for her sanction simply stated that Bell’s treatment of these patients “fell below the standard of a reasonably competent advanced registered nurse practitioner.”

The Payette Clinic, which opened in 2005, remains open.

When asked whether Bell plans to try and regain a license to prescribe opioids, Grant said: “I don’t know what her plans are currently. I know she plans to continue practicing as she is at the clinic.”

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.