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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Raid on Drug Treatment Facilities of Paul Vernier

I admit I am stupidly gullible and even more distrustful of so-called treatment facilities in Scioto County. The news today has made me wonder about the good intentions of drug abuse facilities. There are credible, wonderful rehabs and treatment services, but my experience with pill mills makes me wonder about who is making illegal money and how they handle shady operations.

I posted this in the Facebook group "Missing -- Help Find Megan Lancaster" on September 15, 2014:

"Wonderful people are helping renew the efforts to find Megan Lancaster. Paul and Sherry Vernier own Community Counseling and Treatment Services as well as Hand of Hope in Ashland, Kentucky. 

"These gracious folks are offering a reward of $5,000.00 for the return of Megan or evidence of her whereabouts. They pledged this money a year or so ago, but we need to remind people again of the reward. They hope these efforts lead to information that solves Megan's disappearance. God bless these wonderful people."

I am so regretful of my comments about the generosity of the Verniers. I apologize for my lack of knowledge. I feel terrible.

You see, three drug treatment facilities and the owner's home became the target of a raid Thursday, September 25, 2014.

According to Kristen Schneider and Dan Griffin of WSAZ news, local and federal officials executed search warrants at Community Counseling Treatment Services Center in Ironton, Ohio, as well as  two facilities in Portsmouth and the owner's home -- the accused is Paul Vernier.

Investigators searched the clinics in Portsmouth and Ironton, all owned by the same man, Paul Vernier, 52. Federal and state investigators are looking into the clinic's practices at locations in Scioto and Lawrence counties in Ohio.

They're looking for evidence in a drug trafficking and money laundering case they said has been in the works for more than a year. "It's what happens in a facility like this," said one employee, who wouldn't tell his name. 

The authorities said the owner of all the clinics, Vernier, and his staff took part in illegal activity including drug trafficking, money laundering, insurance fraud and forging prescriptions.

For now, investigators said Vernier hasn't been charged or arrested. 

"I think when money gets involved, you start not following the laws and rules and it catches up with you and I believe that's the situation we have here," said Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless.

Neighbors said they weren't surprised by the raid. "This place is killing our kids and grandkids, and when I saw that on the news, I was so happy, I said thank you Lord Jesus, for stopping people like this," said Sandy Cooper, a neighbor.

"I lost a son ten years ago on drugs, I've got two grandsons that's on drugs, and I'll do anything in this world to stop it," Cooper said.

 (Kristen Schneider and Dan Griffin. "Drug Treatment Facilities Raided in Lawrence, Scioto Counties." WSAZ News. September 25, 2014)

According to a prior news report in 2012, Vernier admitted he had been addicted for 25 years and said he wanted to open these facilities to help others.

A law passed in Ohio to help crack down on pill mills has helped fight distribution abuse, but investigators said it does not give them the teeth they need to fight illegal drug activity at places like treatment facilities.

House Bill 93 created stricter reporting requirements by doctors who prescribe drugs, it cleared up the definition of pain clinic and limits the amount of prescription drug doctors can dispense.

"House bill 93 prohibits employees of a pain clinic from being a convicted felon, Mr. Vernier is a convicted felon," said Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini.

What House Bill 93 does not do: define who can work at these drug treatment facilities. That is why Vernier is able to legally own three of these "counseling" locations.

Damn It All!

So much controversy about opening any type of clinic or drug treatment facility erupted as these "counseling" locations opened. The fight against the pill mills was long, hard, and extremely complicate.

To me, the bottom line was that if lives were saved through their operation, the new facilities were  needed. That was then; this is now. Oh, no ... why in the hell do I trust people? Greed and the love of money have once again raised their ugly heads in the illegal drug game. It seems the risk is worth the fortune for a never-ending line of corrupt owners, doctors, pharmacists, and health workers.

I know Paul Vernier is innocent until proven guilty. Yet, unless a lot of investigators have wasted tons of time and effort on nothing but speculation, Mr. Vernier is no better than the evil pill mill criminals of the past. I don't mind controversy over substances used to help real, honest recovery, but the bastards who abuse their practices are the worst of the worst. They gorge on riches dependent on maintaining other people's misery and pain.

I was in the Statehouse and witnessed the unanimous vote that passed House Bill 93. I hoped it would be the beginning of the end of prescription drug abuse in Scioto County and in Ohio. Those days I had faith that a majority of the populace would rise up and continue the struggle to rid our neighborhoods of a deadly health epidemic. I should have known greed and the corruption of the drug trade have no end.

Now, with heroin and crooked drug treatment centers taking the place of opioids and pill mills, the crisis in Scioto County continues. The fix of love for money and the fix of artificial euphoria are sure to keep business going strong. It is the law of supply and demand, and now even the most noble of professions routinely deal in dark corners.

I feel betrayed and strangely justified. I don't give a damn for any of those who use this whole mess for profit or for pleasure. I do not want one innocent person to die because of drug abuse, but I hope those who are involved in illegal distribution and dealing are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I hate the fortune schemers and the dream killers. I believe they put their souls in the balance as they reap their blood money.

Now, Mr. Vernier, I fully understand how you could be so generous offering a huge reward for the return of Megan Lancaster. I have been a foolish man, but I have a clean conscience.

**NOTE: I am amending this initial blog entry to apologize to Mr. Vernier for judging him before he is arrested. I have been very harsh here because my hatred for abuse is very strong. I don't personally know if Paul Vernier is guilty of abuse. I pray he is not. I know we cannot judge something without evidence. I am sorry for jumping the gun, Mr. Vernier. 

Many tell me Vernier has been "framed" and that he is a good man. I take back my attack on him personally. If he has been the victim of law enforcement, I hope he vindicates himself. I promise to help him with such efforts.

“The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what are, for what 
we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits 
before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before 
the unspeakable agonies of others.” 

 --Iain Banks, Scottish author

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