February 1, 2016

Veteran Found Dead At VA Died Of Heroin Intoxication

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A U.S. Army veteran found dead in a public bathroom at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven died of accidental heroin intoxication, according to Dr. James R. Gill, the state medical examiner.

Zachary Paul-Allen Greenough, 28, of Uncasville, was participating in a residential program where he was free to leave the hospital campus during the day, according to Pamela Redmond, spokesperson for the West Haven VA hospital. She said, as a result, Greenough could have obtained the drugs “anywhere.”

She said the VA would not comment on the cause of Greenough’s death, which occurred on Dec. 22, 2015.

She said an investigation by the hospital’s Patient Safety Program has been completed, but the results are not yet available. The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) in Washington is also conducting an investigation of the death, she said.

The hospital informed the Inspector General’s office of the death, Redmond said.

She said privacy laws prevent her from disclosing what specific program Greenough was participating in, but she did say that he was not in a program for post traumatic stress disorder.

The type of program Greenough was enrolled in requires participants to be at the hospital during the evening and overnight. During the day, they are allowed to leave so they can participate in treatment programs, and seek employment and housing, Redmond said.

VA officials informed the Connecticut Congressional delegation of the death in a Dec. 24 conference call with staff members and follow up emails on Dec. 28, according to a “Statement on Untimely Death” released by the hospital.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has asked that the Inspector General’s investigation include specifics of the death, staffing and security issues, and whether the program Greenough was participating in was the appropriate treatment for him.

In a letter to Deputy Inspector General Linda Holiday, Blumenthal wrote “Any misuse or abuse of drugs, especially causing death to a veteran, is inexcusable. I am sure you share my outrage and that your investigation will reflect the urgency of this issue.”

The hospital’s statement reported that its own police department and police dogs make routine rounds of inpatient areas to search for illegal substances, that the hospital asks the Inspector General’s Office to investigate suspected cases of illegal drugs, and that VA police and criminal investigators “collaborate frequently” with state and local police on criminal drug cases.

“Patient safety is our highest priority,” the VA hospital statement says.

According to his obituary, Greenough was born in New London and lived with an aunt and uncle. A funeral service took place Jan. 16 in Waterford.

 

 

 

 

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