Author: Jason Johnson

Pharma reps testify in ‘pill mill’ case

A pair of former pharmaceutical sales representatives took the stand Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Dr. John Patrick Couch and Dr. Xiulu Ruan in the first testimony linking the local pain physicians to an opioid drugmaker they’re accused of receiving kickbacks from. Both Lacy Kambic Fortenberry and Natalie Perhacs were employed by Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that developed and manufactured Subsys, a spray version of the powerful opiate fentanyl. In December, six former Insys employees — including former CEO Michael Babich — were indicted by federal prosecutors in Massachusetts for an alleged conspiracy to bribe doctors across...

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Saraland police shooter ‘committed suicide’

Following a state autopsy, local authorities believe the man who shot and critically wounded a Saraland policewoman last month took his own life after opening fire on two officers responding to a domestic disturbance call that quickly turned violent. Matthew Blake Richardson, 27, was no stranger to the Saraland Police Department. In fact, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said in 2016 alone, the SPD responded to at least 13 “domestic incidents” at the Saraland residence Richardson shared with his grandparents. “Upon going to the home and speaking with the grandparents, they knew Matthew Richardson was armed — as...

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Coastal Alabama Community College launches in Bay Minette

After 13 months of preparation, a plan to consolidate Alabama Southern Community College, Faulkner State Community College and Jefferson Davis Community College has come to fruition on the Gulf Coast. The Coastal Alabama Community College opened its doors on Thursday, marking the end to a lengthy effort by the administration and staff of all three of the former institutions it comprises. One of the final hurdles for the new college was cleared last month when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission On Colleges (SACSCOC) voted to approve the consolidation of the three institutions along with the blessing...

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Corporate indictment implicates local doctors as ‘pill mill’ trial begins

It’s been more than a year and half since two prominent pain doctors in Mobile were indicted in an alleged conspiracy to recklessly distribute a plethora of controlled medications, but only recently have criminal cases in other states shed light on why it’s taken that long to have their day in court. The trial of Dr. John Patrick Couch and Dr. Xiulu Ruan began last week in the midst of a continuing nationwide pushback against opioid abuse and addiction that a number of federal agencies are calling “an epidemic.” An opioid is any “opium-like” substance that binds to the...

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County seeks help with search for lead engineer

It’s been more than three months since Mobile County Commissioners accepted the resignation of longtime engineer Joe Ruffer, but with ongoing discussions about reorganizing the sizable department he left behind, it could be awhile before someone is tapped to fill the position. It’s been decades since they were called “road and bridge commissioners,” but even though the role of county government has evolved over time, the infrastructure and highway projects managed by the engineering department remain a critical part of the commission’s mission. Locally, engineering and public works make up 15 percent of Mobile County’s current budget, and at more than $26 million it was second only to the county’s public safety and law enforcement costs for the 2017 fiscal year. From 1974 until last October, Ruffer oversaw the engineering department. With his departure, commissioners have tossed around the idea of making some changes and are likely willing to spend thousands of dollars on consultants to help in the process. In October, the county sent out requests for proposal to a number of consultants capable of performing “organizational development work,” and according to County Administrator John Pafenbach, at least four companies have responded, submitting bids ranging from $30,000 to $150,000. So far no offers have been accepted, and it’s possible the final price could be lower depending on what the selected consultant is actually asked to do. At a...

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