A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING
(Originally published on 10/26/2012, but it’s still the same today — 2 1/2 years later).
By Max R. Weller
It’s all too common at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless every winter season, when the overnight emergency dorms are open for bums from Denver and elsewhere. Almost daily from October 15th through April 30th, some homeless client will ask staff to call 9-1-1 for a FREE ride in the ambulance down to the ER at Boulder Community Hospital, in order to score some FREE drugs. It’s just one way people are abusing the system, according to this Denver Post article. Granted, there are legitimate medical emergencies at BSH, too; these occur far less frequently.
I’m not a physician, but I know from years of observing homeless dope fiends and listening to their conversations (in different cities over time) that over half of these calls to paramedics are bogus — the intention of the “patient” is to scam prescription painkillers from ER doctors. Frequently, pills not taken to get high are sold to others on the streets. Because I walk with a limp due to my bad right hip, dope fiends occasionally ask me to sell ’em a few painkillers. I explain that my “dope” is ibuprofen, which can be purchased over the counter for little cost at numerous retail outlets, like King Soopers here in Boulder, CO. The only time I did take a narcotic drug for pain relief was after vascular surgery on my left leg back in 2004; it didn’t make me high, either, but did make my pain bearable.
I recall one notorious dope fiend back in Kansas City, MO named Mary. She abused the ambulance service and ER so shamelessly that one day the paramedics took her into the back of the ambulance, checked her vital signs, consulted by radio with Truman Medical Center, and then put her phony ass back out on the street. “No painkillers for you!” I watched this happen, and I flashed the thumbs up sign to one of the paramedics, who grinned broadly.
There are a lot of scammers like Mary here in Boulder. It’s hard to calculate the amount of $$$ wasted on FREE rides for FREE drugs, but it has to be approaching $1 million on an annual basis in this city alone. And it’s not just Boulder Community Hospital’s ER; People’s Clinic is targeted by dope fiends who get there under their own power. Some of these clowns used to offer to sell me tablets of various painkillers for $10 apiece, which they had obtained for FREE or at greatly reduced cost, but I’ve long since stopped going to areas where they hang out — Bridge House, Pearl Street Mall, Boulder Creek Path, University Hill, etc.
Frankly, Boulderites from all walks of life are the most doped-up bunch of people I’ve ever seen anywhere. If they’re not drunk or stoned on MMJ, it’s crack cocaine or methamphetamine or heroin or prescription drugs being abused.
What a waste!