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Roachdale physician arrested in drug, sex case

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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A longtime Roachdale physician was arrested Tuesday afternoon, culminating a more than two-year investigation by local, state and federal investigators into alleged unlawful and reckless dispensing of controlled substances and reported sexual encounters with patients.

Dr. Ray D. Howell, 57, was booked into the Putnam County Jail on 15 Class D felony counts, 12 involving "recklessly, knowingly or intentionally" distributing or dispensing a controlled substance.

At least three of those counts allege that the excessive amounts of controlled substances Howell prescribed were ostensibly written "to facilitate sexual encounters."

Nine patients, all female, were interviewed by investigators, and six reported unwanted sexual advances or actual sexual acts allegedly occurring with Dr. Howell as a result of their visits to his office.

Feeling effects of the allegedly excessive doses of medication, patients routinely told investigators they felt "like a walking zombie," the drugs were "becoming addictive" or they realized they were "not coherent for a while."

Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter, whose office has been involved in the case the past 18 months, said he personally witnessed interviews with some of the patients in Connersville and Greensburg and was amazed at how they all told virtually the same story yet obviously did not know each other nor did they know about the others' cases.

Although no specific charges have been filed involving the deaths of any patients treated by Dr. Howell, four occasions in which patients died soon after receiving controlled substances from the doctor were detailed in the probable cause affidavit. Three of those involved Fayette County patients, while the fourth was a Franklin County patient who died of an overdose of hydrocodone.

The investigation began in 2009 after pharmacists from Connersville, Danville and Crawfordsville expressed concern that Dr. Howell was writing prescriptions for "unusually large quantities of controlled substances," the probable cause affidavit filed in Putnam Circuit Court notes.

Those pharmacists also noted that Dr. Howell had a number of patients traveling great distances to obtain prescriptions -- some from as far away as Richmond, Hagerstown and Connersville, all more than 100 miles from Roachdale.

Some pharmacies even decided to no longer fill controlled substance prescriptions written by Dr. Howell, who has been the owner and sole practitioner of Tri-County Family Medical Clinic in Roachdale for more than 20 years.

Among the 12 felony counts, the drugs he allegedly over-prescribed or unnecessarily prescribed included eight instances of Oxycodone, three instances of Methodone, two instances of Adipex and separate prescriptions for Clonazepam, Lortab, Vicodin, Alprazolam, Xanax, Percocet and Hydrocodone.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigators sent an undercover Indiana State Police officer to Tri-County Medical Clinic in April and May 2009 to see if Dr. Howell would write her prescriptions for controlled substances "for no legitimate medical reason."

Even though she had no weight issues, the undercover officer asked for diet pills, telling the doctor she was tired all the time and needed them for energy.

On both visits to Dr. Howell's office he wrote her a prescription for 30 Adipex (37.5 mg tablets), a stimulant normally used in the treatment of obesity.

Investigators also reported that the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking (INSPECT) Program showed that controlled substance prescriptions filled for Dr. Howell's patients increased dramatically over the period 2006-2009.

In 2006, he had 3,783 such prescriptions filled, followed by 4,833 in 2007, then 7,763 in 2008 and jumping to 11,187 in 2009.

The INSPECT report also found that "several prescriptions written by Dr. Howell to be for significant amounts of schedule II narcotics (up to 50 dosage units of narcotics per day)."

One patient told investigators that Dr. Howell prescribed her up to 24 Methadone 10mg tablets per day. Another said he was given in excess of 40 oxycodone 30 mg tablets per day, while a third patient said she was prescribed a "cocktail" of Methadone (10 mg), Oxycodone (30 mg), Xanax (2 mg) and Klonopin (1 mg).

Still another patient ended up in the Hendricks Regional Hospital emergency room due to respiratory failure after unexplained weight loss was apparently brought on by her medications. The emergency room physician reportedly told the woman "she needed to get away from Dr. Howell or she would end up dying," the probable cause affidavit states.

After multiple patient files were seized from Howell's Tri-County Clinic by investigators in April 2010, they were forwarded to a medical expert for his professional evaluation.

The subsequent report the evaluator drafted included the following summary: "Unequivocally Dr. Howell negligently prescribed excessive, egregious and inappropriate doses of narcotics that resulted in the deaths of several of his patients and the addiction of several others. Additionally, based on the number of prescriptions he has written, there is no question that these drugs were being diverted by a multitude of his patients based on the numbers of the prescriptions, the dosing strengths of the prescriptions, and the pattern of prescriptive behavior. This deviates from all accepted, normal and clinically germane prescriptive patterns."

Three additional felony counts allege that Dr. Howell furnished false or fraudulent information involving his controlled substance inventory, receipts and dispensing records.

Investigators also discovered that Dr. Howell could not account for more than 2,100 tablets of various controlled substance samples between March 2008 and April 2010, as required by federal law.

Subsequently, due to recordkeeping violations, Dr. Howell signed a civil settlement agreement and paid a $65,000 civil penalty in May 2011.


Comments
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I created an account just to comment on this story about Dr. Howell. I am an RN no longer working but dealt with Mr. (I will not dignify him by saying DR.) many times years ago. if I recall his answering machine had a religious overtone to it, which was laughable the way he treated nurses dealing with his patients. He was always rude and condesending, a very poor "doctor"who didn't want to be bothered about his patients. If I remember right he was the jail doctor for putnam county for a time. Karma is a bitch. whoever saw the pattern of abuse by this man...God bless em!

-- Posted by cosmicchild46135 on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 12:49 AM

No honest nurse would say that about DR. Howell, cosmicchild. He kept employees around TOO long because he cared too much. No one has ever decribed him as "bothered" by his patients. Glad you're not working. Karma is a farce, but if it really existed, you'd be in trouble.

-- Posted by DKTRUTH on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 1:45 AM

DKTRUTH... according to your statement he "cared too much" about his employees. From the looks of this article, he should have been caring more about the patients he was supposed to be treating and the ethics/morals he vowed to uphold by becoming a physician.

And when you say he was never described as "bothered" by his patients.. well obviously not because he has been associated with 4 deaths relating to his prescription dispensing practices and allegedly had inappropriate encounters with several female patients. Sounds like he gave plenty of attention to his patients.

-- Posted by SMEEBS on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 4:52 AM

Where is the Journal Review on this? We know several people in Crawfordsville who used and abused Dr. Howell's loose prescription pad. My family used to go to him a few years back until things started getting creepy. My wife's sister was completely strung out on what he was giving her - my wife called his office several times to beg him to stop prescribing narcotics to her because she had a long history of drug abuse. He never quit giving it to her. She wiped out her vehicle with her infant child in it with her.

Why didn't the Journal Review print a front page story on it? Is this not newsworthy? Their website has nothing this morning, yet there are four possible deaths surrounding him?

He knew what he was doing. Some of his nurses knew what he was doing, and even quit because of it. He may have started out a good guy, but he ended up a monster. Don't cover for him, there is no excuse.

-- Posted by nojournalreviewstory? on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 6:06 AM

Its about time the quack is getting what he deserves. What a hypocrit, claims to be such the man of God, and turns around and does something as foolish as this. Thank God I got my family away from this quack years ago, before he could make sexual advances on any of my girls or wife. Hopefully they will put this guy, that has been a practicing quack for way to many years, away for a very long time and let him sit and think about his hypocritical ways.

-- Posted by capn64 on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 6:38 AM

TO DKTRUTH.....SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE A LITTLE TOO DEFENSIVE ABOUT THE "DOCTOR." OBVIOUSLY, YOU HAVE BEEN UNDER HIS "TREATMENT" FOR QUITE SOME TIME. PROBABLY THE LESS YOU SAY, THE BETTER FOR YOUR REPUTATION.

-- Posted by Michele1953 on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 7:40 AM

nojournalreviewstory, you commented that he even had nurses that worked for him and quit because of it. Yet none of them reported this abuse. These nurses also took oaths to serve and protect, could they have saved the four who overdosed, perhaps the addicts he created with his perscription pad, or the addicts he supplied with their fixes so readily. I hope this is a lesson to any nurse, stand up for your patients rights, don't just quit. Save the life you have sworn to protect.

-- Posted by what were they thinking on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 8:31 AM

nojournalreviewstory?, have you noticed that our fine newspaper (Journal Review) has also never reported the fact that Tyler Kirts, whose body was found in Greencastle, was NOT murdered? And Mr. Kirts was a Crawfordsville resident!

-- Posted by '74tiger on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 8:37 AM

As a former patient who left and removed her family from this practice because of Dr. Howell's crazy behavior, I would like each of you to remember this man has a family and they are good people that live within our community. Please try not to victimize them additionally for something they didn't do by attacking. They will be hurting. I know we all have strong opinions (myself included) and I hate that anyone was hurt by this man. I also know he will have his day in court, this is one article from a liberal press. Make sure you get all the facts before you crucify...there is always more to the story. He will get what the law decides is fair based on his condition and responsibility.

-- Posted by friendlyreminder on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 9:09 AM

Sorry but I know of a person that worked for him as a nurse. And she left the practice because a patient came in one day to see the doc and said to her "please do not let him be in the room with me alone. I dont want to do it again." and yes this nurse did report it.

-- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 9:20 AM

The nurse we know was helping the police, so she did the right thing. We really liked him at first. I used to talk scripture with him frequently. I believe he was a good Christian man. At one time. People make mistakes, and I too feel for his family, but he ruined several lives for the sake of the occasional "sexual encounter." Thats where we are as a society; not even the local family doctor can be trusted anymore. Any answers as to why it took two years to arrest him? Building a case, i'm sure, but how many horrible things were done in the meantime?

-- Posted by nojournalreviewstory? on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 9:48 AM

It is about time this awful man has been caught. He has been doing this for years, horrible patient care and hiding behind his Christian fellowship!!! God will punish him for all he has done. Just so sad so many people have been hurt in the mean time.

-- Posted by Itsabouttime on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 10:14 AM

Our family with our four children were patients of his for several years. He was leery to medicate them or me unnecessarily then. He even called in the evening twice after we went there with sick children to make sure they were doing well.

He went the extra mile to talk to me about how the body works so that I understood what I wanted to do to help them get better. He is extremely knowledgeable about the human body.

He also has a wife and a slew of kids.

This makes me so sad.

He knew what he was doing and didn't resist his own lower nature. So many people adversely effected by his lack of character! I am glad he was stopped. My heart aches for the positive legacy he could have left on an entire community that he completely failed.

So disappointed in this man of God.....

-- Posted by WhoaNellie on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 11:42 AM

As awful as this story is, and as creepy as the dr appears to be and as creepy as all the things he has done is......I hope he finds his way back to God. I just do not understand how he can take advantage of so many people and then live w/himself. He has to have a mixed up brain. I love Roachdale. It's a quaint little town, icky name, but a pretty and mostly well kept town. Sure there are a few houses that need some clean up....well one that needs to be torn down and started again, but for the biggest part the houses are well kept, the people are friendly and helpful. It it so unsettling that someone like this guy took advantage of it. I will be praying for him....drat

-- Posted by sosorry on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 2:26 PM

i used to go there as a child with migraines and I acknowledge that he was very caring (i'm a male by the way) he would pray with my mother and I because the headaches were so bad- I was also in school with one of his daughters, we graduated together actually- so when certain people want to completely bash him, I think this happened down the road and not the whole time. He used to be a very good man. I personally can't wrap my mind around it, I feel sorry for his family.

-- Posted by blp21381 on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 2:51 PM

He will get a good attorney and proberly do less time then someone who got arrested with a joint for the first time. This should of came afloat ten years ago. God can't save them all.

-- Posted by 1stamendrights. on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 3:21 PM

just blows my mind as a patient of dr howells he was always nice and very respectful to me and my children,now just not sure what to do for a dr. from here on out???????

-- Posted by cville on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 3:39 PM

it amazes me that people put the god complex on a man who is not god and never should people think he is. there should not be doubt about his practices. a man is a man.if he thinks that he can get a way with it hes going to do it, and the longer he gets away with it the more he thinks hes safe. if you ever have a doubt or your intuition is saying this isnt right then its time for a new doctor. and the rumors had to be goin on long before he was investigated. you know the old saying, when in doubt throw it out....and in this case call and report.

-- Posted by pukee on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 4:48 PM

Howell was a dope pusher and a pervert, any of his female addict patients can tell you about his personal tendencies, and every pharmacy tech in the 3 county area can tell you about his prescribing habits.

-- Posted by Clovertucky on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 4:53 PM

I have read all the comments and felt that I needed to add my own. No matter what he may or may have not done, wether he was mentally competent or not, this is just another case of a doctor who did not uphold his oath as a physician. It happens everyday everywhere. People should ne praying for his children, one who I believe os still in highschool. The other people who should be thought of are the staff that even when they did try to say somethijng or reported it we're either in fear of losing there job or they were totally ignored and belittles. And I do know this for fact. In closing, those in glass houses should not throw stones.

-- Posted by Notadaydreamer on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 8:34 PM

Dr. Howell was recently diagnosed by a neurologist with alzheimer disease. His office was then closed by the Dept. of Health due to his dimentia. Maybe this accounts for his behavior. I was his patient up until 5 years ago when I moved away from the area. Though I had a back injury he never gave me a narcotic. It seems his mind and his behavior has changed since I knew him.

-- Posted by rmilburn on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 8:49 PM

You people are complete and utter idiots. Just because you can hide behind a computer screen with anonymous names and bash someone for obviously making the wrong choices puts you on the same level. I'm glad to be gone from Putnam Ct. because it's full of rumor mongers and people who cannot wait to jump on an opportunity for others to fail. You all hide behind religion as well. if you were honest with yourself you would ask if the life you live behind closed doors would be appealing to your so called god. This type of response to a horrible situation does not advance society in any way but inhibits it from moving on and making it a better place. The family he is leaving to deal with this mess does not deserve this type of hatred. They still love their father and husband and right now could use a community that will reach out and most importantly try to be understanding. Please feel free to be ashamed of yourselves, and lastly... Let's work together to make the community a better place.

-- Posted by put.ct.isuhhjoke on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 9:19 PM

In Putnam County, guilty until proven inocent!!

-- Posted by dumpsterdiva2 on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 9:58 PM

Short and sweet, he will probably say "The Devil made him do it." Such a disappointment, his family has to suffer and be drawn into such an awful thing. Was he really thinking about his family at the time this was going on. I feel pain for all of them. They will all need prayers family and friends to help them through this.

-- Posted by Mystery1 on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 10:15 PM

PRAYERS TO ALL INVOLVED! We are not to JUDGE! WE ARE ALL SINNERS!

-- Posted by pastputnamco on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 11:27 PM

Ok so I can see that all of us r perfect except for mr howell. Wow. When did that happen. I agree with the comment about looking at our own lives and seeing what would happen if we were investigated. I lived in putnam county most of my life. I never met a perfect person. There are a lot of rumor mills there. I am not condoning what he did or did not do. Which is up to courts. Not all you perfect people that have no lives and just want to bad mouth someone to make yourself feel better. Get a life. Think about his kids and wife and grandkids that just lost a dad, granddad, and husband. Quit being jerks putnam county and get a life.

-- Posted by imesdriver on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 11:50 PM

Oh. You might want to be careful with the word pervert. Especially when u yourself looks at a girl or all that porn. Wow. Wow. Wow. Judge lest you be judge.

-- Posted by imesdriver on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 11:56 PM

So sad. I feel for the family but I hope they feel the pain I did when I lost my husband just 3 years after STOPPING him going to see Dr. Howell. His diagnosis and prescription for my husband was it is a virus and let's pray. Well... 3 years later and dead of a bad liver from Tylenol overdose. Something that he couldn't diagnose or believe. Maybe because he wouldn't write a script for HIM for pain killers.

-- Posted by momtaz on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 6:58 AM

Yes he crossed the line, and he was arrested for it. Yes he will probably get little or no jail time. He will although loose his medical license which is his way to make a living and is what was used to get him into the position of trust to his patients. So with that said and all the things above said why is the same law enforcement people not going after the other Doctors in this town who push their ideals of prescribing certain types of addictive medications to patients and then pretty much turn that into a business model for thier practice. In other words lets get this patient addicted to say Ativan because they are slightly hypertensive. So then when this person runs out he has got to back to the doctor and get refilled. So they get an office visit charged to the patient for a medication that the Doctor full well knew that it was highly addictive and should not be taken any longer than two weeks to to that fact. And the list goes on when it comes to some of the doctors in this town. I mean there is one office that there docs see like 45 plus patients each per day and if you did the math on a 8 hour day with an hour lunch they should only see 28 patients at 15 minutes per.. so lets talk about quality of care..wow

-- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 8:19 AM

he was my doctor untill i fired him and found another doctor. i had to go to him for insurance reasons but i had 6 spine operations and when i went to him he insisted i pray and meditate for the pain to go away. prayer is always good but maybe if i was an attractive woman maybe i would of gotten the help i wanted

-- Posted by stiffler47933 on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 8:46 AM

Honestly, I think doctors nowadays are scared to give out drugs because of things like this. I'm not saying he didn't do wrong, but 1 bad doctor makes them all change their policies. The doctor's I go to fight kicking and screaming when I try to get a few pain pills because of a pulled muscle or sprain...the general answer is ice it....Anyway, I'm just saying people are the problem....not necessarily the doctors. How about all the people that go to 10 different doctors to get their drugs....If they would all centralize a database so every doctor knows what every other doctor has prescribed....ALOT of this could be avoided.....

-- Posted by J_Mason on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 11:23 AM

There is a database called a PMP, it show all narcotic scripts who wrote the script and what pharmacy they were filled at, and when!!! So Doctors need to check it....I know my Doctor does!! And to Oh My Goodness, sounds like you were cut off and pretty pissed off about it huh??? For some reason you want to focus on a certain office that is not involved, better be careful!!

-- Posted by horsepower on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 11:54 AM

My dad went to him 13 years ago. He had cancer. At that time he took very good care of him. My daughter came to live with us about 2 years ago. She started to go to him up until this past may. He had her on so many different kinds of stuff it was unbeliable. She was glassy eyed all the time, moody, and slept all the time. She started have seziures. So here came more medicines on top of the other. She ended up in Danville hospital and then Methadist. She had exstream posion in her blood. She almost died. She now has parcel damage to her brain, had to have her gall bladder removed and has a stent in her heart and now has to start radiation. Her kidneys are damaged and much more. She is only 26 years old. Still fighting for her life. I dont know what happened to the dr but it is all very sad. He is not the only dr that does this, i am sure. It is just that it is bad enough the people are able to get drugs off the streets without a dr making it eaiser for them to do it. My daughter went to him because she trusted him because of the good care he done for my dad years ago. You should be able to trust a dr just the same as you should be able to trust an officer of the law. What I dont understand is why did it take such a long time for them to investigate this. If they were more on the ball some of this could of been prevented. Like my 26 year old daughter who works hard, has 3 small children, and dreams. Now she cannot take care of her 2 smaller children much without alot of help. She spent so many days in the hosipal and has to go to hospital all the time now to do transfusins and dialisus and much more. I feel sorry for the drs family but i would like to see this man pay for what he has done. if a person on the street did this, they sure would. to me this is worse due to the fact he uses the DR title to gain trust like a preacher would do if he were doing bad. Please pray for my daughter and i am sure the drs family needs it as well

-- Posted by sweetwinkins on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 12:04 PM

@ horsepower, no actually i wasnt cut off I worked in a local doctors office of which 98 percent of their Patients were on one addictive med or another. I have since left that practice. It was their policy to only give 30 days when in fact they can do 90 days but they wanted the office visit at 100 bucks a month.

@ J_mason not all Docs are bad or crooked or even close but in this case it was simple Scripts for strips.. or sexual things. God i would hate to know what these girls had to do.

-- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 12:23 PM

This would be a great time to go onto Hendricks Regional Health website and send them an email saying we NEED the doctor's office in Bainbridge to maintain a FULLTIME physician in the office they purchased over a year ago. They have two specialists that are in there a total of 5 days per week and no Family Physician. Northern Putnam county is in desperate need (especially now) of a fulltime family physician that is affiliated with a reputable hospital. BUT, the hospital needs to hear it from the people of the community. I have been told they are wanting to place a physician in Bainbridge that can bring a patient load with them.... we need to let the hospital know that is not necessary, we will supply them with plenty of patients! Like I said, especially now that the Roachdale office is closed.

-- Posted by momofboys on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 1:33 PM

I was a patient of DR Howell for a long time. I credit him for finding that I had several serious diseases. If he had not found them, I may not be here. I am not a patient any longer since I am a disabled veteran and all of my healthcare is taken care of by the VA. He would squeeze us in if we had a pressing health issue. I also have gout and arthritis which causes almost constant pain and I was never prescribed any kind of strong pain pills because of possible adverse reactions.

I am going to presume he is innocent until the court says otherwise. All we have heard is one side of the story.

-- Posted by Steven C on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 2:32 PM

Sorry, that should read *5 days per month* not week! Sorry

-- Posted by momofboys on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 3:12 PM

@ Oh my Goodness...Sorry you worked for selfish uncaring Doctors, Remember ...."First Do No Harm"

-- Posted by horsepower on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 5:50 PM