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Investigation continues at Big Creek Family Medicine in Florence

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Apr 02 2014 06:43:15 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 02 2014 11:00:49 PM MDT
Investigation continues at Big Creek Family Medicine in Florence
FLORENCE, Mont. -

Police tape is still up on day two of a multi-agency task force investigation at a Florence doctor's office.

Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright said as yet, there's still no comment on the raid, which closed Big Creek Family Medicine and Urgent Care.

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said there is nothing new in the case yet.

Guards have been outside the clinic around the clock.

A search warrant was issued after a nearly 2-year investigation into prescription writing practices of Dr. Chris Arthur Christensen. But as of yet, no charges have been filed.

Late Wednesday, Ravalli County Public Health officials issued a warning about the potential of withdrawal for any of Christensen's patients.

They recommend seeing another local primary care doctor if they are experiencing problems.

We are digging deeper into two deaths linked to Christensen's former practice in North Idaho.

We uncovered the unrest they stirred in the Northwest 13 years ago.

In early March, 2001, Dr. Chris Christensen made headlines after allegedly prescribing a controversial pain killer at his practice in Shoshone County, Idaho, that may have caused the death of at least one of his patients.

Bryan Davenport was a former mine worker who suffered from asthma and chronic pain.

His father says Bryan was strong and healthy.  "He trudged up an  down mountains with 70 pound packs of equipment, all day long, up and down
mountains," Ron Davenport said in a TV interview in 2001.

Dr. Christensen reportedly gave Bryan Davenport medications for pain, including methadone.

Two days later, after skiing and drinking a couple of beers, Bryan Davenport went to sleep and choked to death on his own vomit.  The medical examiner blamed the beer but Ron Davenport Blamed Dr Christensen, saying he could have seen from Bryan's medical records that he used alcohol.  "I mean, to lose a son in these circumstances, by a professional who should have known better, I mean the professional giving drugs that should never have been prescribed, is
unbelievable," Davenport stated.

The Davenport case became part of a large complaint against Christensen by the Idaho State Board of Medicine: a complaint with 19 charges that the doctor had overprescribed controlled substances.  Davenport wasn't the first patient linked to Christensen who died.  One month earlier, Cliff Martz of Mullan died.  Martz was also a chronic pain patient, also on methadone.

Christensen fought the complaints.  In a 2001 interview, he defended the prescriptions of methadone. "Most of the chronic pain treatment programs around the country acknowledge that methadone is effective," Christensen told a news reporter.

As the complaints were investigated, Christensen agreed to voluntarily give up his license to practice in Idaho for two years, saying it's the price he was charged for trying to help people deal with a problem that's often invisible: chronic pain. "There are very few physicians who feel it is worth the risk of jeopardizing their license to work with these patients," Christensen added.

Ron Davenport disagrees, and said, "The board of medicine is basically powerless, if they knew the man was dangerous they
couldn't stop him."

Davenport said in 2001 that Christensen should have lost his license long before then.