Community Police & Fire

Gig Harbor Police Blotter: HIPAA cited in refusal to say where drugs came from

Posted on March 10th, 2023 By:

Editor’s note: The Blotter is written based on information provided by Gig Harbor Police and Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One.

St. Anthony Hospital asked police to collect drugs found on a patient on March 8, but refused to tell officers from whom they took the contraband.

Hospital employees told officers that the facility’s policy on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (better known as HIPAA) prevented them from sharing patient information.

The officer who responded countered that HIPAA specifically exempts law enforcement, and besides that the officer wanted only the patient’s name, not health information. Nonetheless, the hospital employee insisted that “risk management” instructed them not to share any information.

Officers told the hospital that if they couldn’t provide information on who had the narcotics, they should just destroy them. The hospital responded that there were a lot of pills, suspected to be fentanyl.

Upon examining the bag of more than 100 pills, the officer agreed that it was likely more than would be for personal use. The officer again requested the name of the patient, who the officer now suspected of possibly distributing drugs. But the hospital again refused.

In addition to the pills, the officer collected a bag containing a small amount of meth, along with marijuana and THC vape pen cartridges.

Man arrested for threats, burglary

Police arrested and booked into jail a 42-year-old Gig Harbor man for burglary after he refused to leave the Gig Harbor Library on the afternoon March 7. Because law enforcement previously had trespassed the man from the library, his presence there met the legal definition of a burglary.

Officers arrested the same man for trespassing at the library in November 2022. In their report, officers noted that the suspect suffers from mental illness and that others in the department were working on connecting him to mental health resources.

In the March 7 incident, however, the man also threatened library staff. He told them that asking him to leave the library violated his First Amendment rights and made him want to exercise his Second Amendment rights.

Officers requested and received a waiver from the Pierce County Jail to book the suspect on suspicion of second-degree burglary.