This Whatcom County nurse is accused of forging more than 40 prescriptions for opiates

Star-Telegram archived photo
Star-Telegram archived photo AP

A Whatcom County nurse accused of forging more than 40 prescriptions for opiates is facing discipline from the Washington state Department of Health.

In November, the state agency’s Nursing Commission charged registered nurse Karen Marie Benkarski with unprofessional conduct, the Department of Health announced Monday.

Here are the allegations against Benkarski, as laid out by the state agency in its statement of charges:

She forged about 43 prescriptions for opiates from about Sept. 26, 2015, through about Dec. 26, 2017. She did so by using the name and identification numbers of a doctor at the Skagit Regional Clinics in Mount Vernon, where she worked as a nurse.

Around Jan. 30, 2017, to Dec. 22, 2017, Benkarski forged three prescriptions for zolpidem, a sedative that can treat insomnia. She used the same doctor’s information to do so.

From around Dec. 18, 2015, to about Oct. 2, 2017, she forged nine prescription information forms, using the same doctor’s information. The state agency said she provided those forms to fraudulently claim she had been prescribed hydrocodone.

Benkarski failed to comply with the substance abuse monitoring contract she had agreed to enter after admitting, in a written statement around Dec. 11, 2013, to testing positive for narcotics. She didn’t have valid prescriptions for them. As part of that contract, she agreed to undergo random testing. She tested positive for hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller, numerous times from April 2015 through February 2017, according to the state agency.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.