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Community Medical Center nurse admits to diverting fentanyl

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A Missoula Community Medical Center nurse accused of diverting fentanyl and hydromorphone meant for patients for her own use admitted to charges Thursday in federal court. 

Mary Schmidt Monahan, 61, pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining controlled substances as charged in an indictment, a Thursday news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Monahan faces a maximum of four years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release.

In the months spanning from January 2020 until about February 2021, Monahan diverted fentanyl and hydromorphone while employed as a nurse in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit at CMC in Missoula. In January 2021, another medical center staff member observed Monahan engaging in what looked like diverting drugs from a patient, the news release said. 

Monahan had two vials on her workstation when she placed something in her pocket, pulled up the sleeve of her jacket to her elbow and moved out of the employee’s field of vision. When Monahan emerged, she wiped her forearm with an alcohol pad and raised her arm in the air.

A short time later, Monahan requested that the employee serve as a witness to the disposal of drugs, including hydromorphone and fentanyl. A review of Monahan’s dispensing records noted that in December 2020, she had distributed amounts above the normal drug quantity for her unit.

"When questioned by supervisors, Monahan admitted she had been diverting drugs from patients for about a year. Monahan admitted to Drug Enforcement Administration agents that she had obtained medications for patients but administered only a portion of the drugs and kept the remainder for herself," the news release said. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla E. Painter is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Missoula Police Department.

Sentencing was set for April 26. Monahan will remain released from custody pending further proceedings. 

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