ALAMOSA — Former nurse practitioner Debra Rice, 62, was in court Thursday and agreed to a plea deal with the Attorney General’s office. Rice was charged with 50 counts in connection to the distribution of a controlled substance through prescribing medications during 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Four of the charges were had to do with forgery and theft.
In the plea agreement, Rice admitted to count 48 of theft of “between Oct. 24, 2015, and Feb. 20, 2017, involving between $5,000-20,000 intended to deprive the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.” She also pled guilty to an added count of felony distribution of a controlled substance. The remaining 49 charges were dismissed.
The agreement stipulates that with Rice’s plea, the judge would only sentence her to a maximum of five years in the Department of Corrections (DOC) or seven years in Community Corrections. In theory, she could have faced up to 11 years in prison if found guilty by a jury on just the two charges.
She also agreed to $17,082.68 in restitution to the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
The judge will sentence Rice, who now lives in Florida, Oct. 24 after the pre-sentencing report is completed and review by the probation department.
The State Board of Nursing suspended Rice’s professional nursing license in 2017 after investigating the number of prescriptions she was issuing and the deaths of three patients related to drug intoxication. The state board found that Rice had written more than 2,400 prescriptions for controlled substances during five months in 2016 alone and more than 7,000 prescriptions during a 13 month period in 2016 and 2017.
The board found that numerous patients, including some from the Denver area, would drive to Alamosa to obtain prescriptions for a controlled substance from Rice.
According to the state board, Rice provided care to a patient who died on Feb. 27, 2016. The patient’s autopsy results indicated that he died of methadone intoxication.
Another patient of Rice’s died May 24 of 2016. That patient’s autopsy results indicated that he died of mixed drug intoxication, according to the state board.
A third patient of Rice’s died July 25, 2016. The patient’s autopsy results indicated that she died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease with diabetes mellitus in the setting of drug intoxication.
Rice, R.N., A.P.N., R.X.N., had been practicing at SoCo Medical Services on San Juan Ave in Alamosa. She had been licensed and granted prescriptive authority since 2008. As part of her practice, Rice wrote prescriptions for controlled substances, including narcotic pain medications, benzodiazepines, and muscle relaxers.
None of the original criminal charges against Rice related to the deaths.