By all indications, Paul Vernier became a victim of his own kindness on September 25, 2014 when local and federal officials executed search warrants at his properties -- Community Counseling Treatment Services Center in Ironton, Ohio, as well as two facilities in Portsmouth and his home.
The authorities said they were looking for evidence in a drug trafficking and money laundering case they claimed has been in the works for more than a year. 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. Accusations based on hearsay mean nothing to the legal system.
To this date, Vernier hasn't been charged or arrested for criminal activities. Yet, vehicles and other property he owned have been impounded and remain so. His home was ransacked by authorities looking for evidence of crimes with which he had never been charged. All the while, he has been left to wonder why he was targeted for any criminal activity. Reputable sources say Vernier was a stickler about "dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's" of complicated medical treatment procedures.
The raid did irreparable damage to Paul Vernier's reputation while it effectively increased the danger of overdose death and opiate addiction in Southern Ohio. Listen to what Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said about Vernier and Community Counseling Treatment Services:
"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."
"I think"? "I believe"? Speculation from Sheriff Lawless is unwarranted. It is critically damaging.
In addition, Vernier has been accused of being a convicted felon who cannot own a pain clinic. How can a person clear his record and establish his character when Scioto County Sheriff Mary Donini told the media this about Paul Vernier?
"House bill 93 prohibits employees of a pain clinic from being a convicted felon, Mr. Vernier is a convicted felon."
(Kristen Schneider and Dan Griffin. "Drug Treatment Facilities Raided in Lawrence, Scioto Counties." WSAZ News. September 25, 2014)
Let me explain the good sheriff's statement about the felony further:
1. First of all, Community Counseling Treatment Services is not a pain clinic governed by House Bill 93. It is an Opiate Treatment Practice.
2. Vernier's felony is a matter of the far past, and it has either been expunged due to time limits or due to other considerations.
3. Vernier has been fully licensed after full disclosure (after the crime) by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. He was also licensed by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. He is sworn to follow all medications protocol.
4. Vernier has been certified through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) and also certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, (CARF International) an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services to meet internationally recognized standards.
I wonder if either law official can claim the credentials accumulated by Paul Vernier.
Here is a veteran who had been addicted for 25 years, who got sober and has maintained sobriety for at least 18 years, and who decided he wanted to help others. Vernier enrolled in college, worked diligently to attain degrees in education, counseling, and human development. Then, he decided to pursue his dream to help others and open the Community Counseling facilities.
For seven months now, Paul, his family, and his friends have been in limbo because the raid has not justified any wrongdoing. I ask you, is this the way to treat those who work to stop the epidemic of drug abuse that threatens our very existence? I wonder how many lives have been lost to addiction that might have been saved if Vernier had been operating his facilities during the investigation.
Politics, vendettas, deals, and unsavory tactics thwart justice. Our county has a history of factions fighting for control to gain power and monetary advantage. We all know of the "hush" factor, the "threat" factor, and the incredible pressures put on those who have erred and attempt to atone for their once-lost ways. I believe "someone" or "many" had it in for Mr. Vernier.
And, as foible humans, we realize the best messengers for mercy have experienced similar hard times in their own lives. These well-meaning people who raise themselves from potential destruction should not be persecuted in the name of righteousness. We should assist them in every way possible to continue their good work.
In the case of Paul Vernier, a person who understands addiction, a political social system has fabricated ethical considerations to wreck his work. How sad that the honest morals of a person have been damaged by foggy charges and left to linger without repair. How sad his patients suffer the consequences of the bogus raid. That, dear readers, is immoral.
Simply put, people who care about doing the right thing raise the moral standards of their environment. They fight injustices -- whether these injustices are considered ethical or unethical -- and they raise the bar of conduct by literally changing destiny. Their compassion serves to squash injustice.
So, to me, you can view this raid as an overly aggressive and invasive investigation into wrongdoing or as an unjustified, illegal intrusion ignited by politics, power, and greed. Either way, the result has been destructive and it has posed a great threat to the health of a community sorely in need of recovery and treatment.
I pray for the Vernier family. I pray that their long wait and their intense pain will end. Isn't it time to let the man return to work in the profession he so strongly supports? I think so.
Many of Paul Vernier's estimated 1,200 patients have been coming to the defense of the accused owner and staff.
One, Dustin Siders says the center essentially saved his life.
"I've been a struggling addict since 16 years old, in and out of trouble," Siders said. "It wasn't so much the medicines I was getting, but everything. The counseling, they do as much as they can to get to the bottom of your addiction."
(Kristen Schneider; Dan Griffin; Andrew Colegrove.
"Patients Defend Raided Treatment Center." WSAZ 3. October 01, 2014)
Saving lives is what treatment is all about. Imagine Dustin Siders being one of your precious loved ones. This injustice to Paul Vernier should be corrected immediately.