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Florence doctor’s license suspended

By Michael Howell

The Montana Board of Medical Examiners issued a Summary Order of Suspension of the medical license of Florence doctor Chris Christensen, M.D., on Monday, April 7, following a raid on the clinic on April 1. The suspension is in force pending a hearing on a complaint against the doctor resulting from an ongoing investigation into his prescription practices.

On Tuesday, April 1, a multi-agency task force served a search warrant on Big Creek Family Medicine and Urgent Care in Florence. According to a statement released by Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman and Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright, the task force was comprised of members from the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation, and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the press release, the search warrant was issued by District Court Judge Jim Haynes in support of a nearly two-year investigation into the prescription writing practices of Dr. Chris Arthur Christensen.

The clinic was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape Tuesday and Wednesday while officers searched the premises.

On Wednesday, April 2, however, the Ravalli County Public Health Department issued its own press release “about the potential for narcotic and benzodiazepine withdrawal for patients of Big Creek Family Medicine and Urgent Care.” Patients were advised that narcotic withdrawal can be painful, but not fatal; “however, a pregnant woman who is undergoing narcotic withdrawal is also advised that she is at risk for losing the fetus.”

The press release advised that benzodiazepine withdrawal may rarely be life threatening for people with underlying seizure disorders. It stated that withdrawal may also bring out suicidal tendencies and recommended that anyone experiencing a mental health crisis call West House in Hamilton at 532-8990 or contact your local crisis center.

“While local Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Departments will not refill controlled substance prescriptions, they are still available for all patients’ acute and emergent medical needs. If anyone needs non-pain related long term medications, many local Primary Care Providers are willing to see new patients for these concerns. 

If you are running out of narcotic pills that you take every day, we recommend you start a taper now. Count the number of pills and decrease by 10 % every 1-7 days, depending on how many you have. Support is also available for questions about tapering at 532-8990,” stated the release.

According to Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman, no criminal charges have been filed at this time. He said the search warrant that was served on the clinic was just one more part of an ongoing investigation and due to the sensitive nature of the investigation, no further information could be provided. He said anyone who may have relevant information can contact the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office at 375-6650. Comments or questions may also be addressed at the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Facebook page.

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