Woman gets 3 years in prison for giving psychotropic medication to nursing home residents

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The former director of nursing at a California nursing home was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for using psychotropic drugs to subdue residents.

The defendant, Gwen D. Hughes, was convicted of inappropriately medicating 23 individuals. All of them suffered negative health consequences. The medication was implicated in three resident deaths. Hughes was charged on a felony count of elder abuse that contributed to a patient's death.

Depakote can be prescribed to combat seizures or act as a mood stabilizer. Hughes ordered the anti-seizure drug Depakote be given to residents.

“If the resident did not want to go to the dining room then an antipsychotic drug would be started,” the facility's master of social work told an investigator, according to documents from the Department of Health and Human Services. “None of the resident's family members were notified about starting Depakote on any of the residents.”

The facility's former medical director, who signed off on the orders to medicate the residents, was sentenced to 300 hours of volunteer service. The former CEO of the Kern Valley Health District, who was responsible for supervising Hughes, also received 300 hours of volunteer service.

Long-term care providers were pushed last year to reduce the use of anti-psychotics by 15%, and there were several attempts by lawmakers to regulate the medications.

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