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Milton doctor loses license after admitting to opioid charges

HUNTINGTON — A Cabell County psychiatrist has lost his license after admitting in both a Lawrence County, Ohio, and federal court to drug usage and writing illicit opioid prescriptions.

According to the order signed Nov. 4 by members of the West Virginia Board of Medicine, former Dr. Marc J. Spelar, a psychiatrist of Milton, had his West Virginia medical license revoked earlier this month.

The ruling came after Spelar was arrested and charged in federal court earlier this year with 10 counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances involving more than 800 prescriptions and over 17,000 opioid pills.

He was accused from 2016 to 2017 of distributing Schedule II narcotics, including dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate and amphetamine salt, to a patient who he had never examined and did not have a medical need for the drugs, but had a history of abusing drugs. He later pleaded guilty to one count of that indictment.

He had also pleaded guilty to some charges after he was charged in 2017 by a Lawrence County grand jury with possession of cocaine, trafficking in drugs, two counts of possession of drugs, endangering children and possession of drug abuse instruments.

Spelar’s medical license had initially been issued in 2013, with his self-identified specifically as psychiatry. However, the license had been subject to restrictions since 2017 that prohibit him from participating in the clinical practice of medicine in the state, pending an investigation by the board after a criminal complaint was filed against him in Ironton Municipal Court in Lawrence County, Ohio.

In October 2017, Spelar pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of drugs, felonies in the fifth degree and he was sentenced to serve four years of community controlled sanctions and intensive supervised probation. He was also required to successfully complete outpatient drug counseling.

The board conducted an investigation into his prescribing of controlled substances and after reviewing 16 of his patient records it found probable cause to substantiate charges of disqualification, the order said.

In May 2019, a second investigation opened after Spelar’s federal indictment on similar charges was unsealed. The indictment involved 10 prescriptions issued by the former doctor without a legitimate medical purpose between October 2016 and April 2017.

In August 2019, he entered into a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to one count, admitting to the charges against him surrounding a clinic in Huntington. As part of his plea, Spelar admitted to treating a patient addicted to opiates despite never performing a physical examination or seeing them.

A formal disciplinary hearing before the board was held in October and the order revoking his license was issued last week.

According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, Spelar operated Prometheus Mentis Psych PLLC on 1079 S. Main St. in Milton, West Virginia.

His federal sentencing is scheduled at 3 p.m. on Dec. 9.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.


News
Sacrifices of service members honored in Veterans Day parade, ceremony

HUNTINGTON — J. Brian Nimmo, director of the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center, said he’s heard people openly question what sacrifices were made by those retired from the Armed Forces.

Nimmo, a Persian Gulf War veteran, was the keynote speaker during the annual Veterans Day program in Huntington on Monday. The program, hosted by the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District and the Veterans Committee for Civic Improvement, featured a parade through Old Central City that ended in a ceremony at Huntington’s Veterans Memorial Arch.

“They sacrificed by missing birthdays and some weddings, missing the birth of their children, not being there when their loved ones passed away, spending holidays far from home and spending month after month away from everyone that they love,” he said.

Speaking to an audience of more than 250 veterans, their families and supporters, Nimmo said service members have been making those sacrifices throughout history, spanning several generations. Some people made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in the name of freedom. Others sacrificed their health and their well-being to protect this country, he said.

Nimmo said that’s why it’s important to set aside Veterans Day to honor sacrifices and thank the men and women who put their lives on the line. Monday was the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which was created in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I. Armistice Day was then changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

“Remembering their service is one small way of repaying the debt that America owes to our veterans, those who offered their lives so others can live free,” he said.

Monday’s ceremony was hosted by Fred Buchanan, department commander for the American Legion Department of West Virginia. Buchanan recalled all the wars throughout history. He said one question remains unanswered: what happened to the men and women who never returned from wartime?

“Where are our brothers, our prisoners of war and those missing in action?” he asked. “This is not an absence of choice, but rather one that emulates duty, honor and country. Let us remember their efforts.”

Buchanan pointed out a small table set aside to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action, or POW/MIA. The empty chair represented the face of every service member who could not be there physically.

“The table holds a place of dignity and honor,” he said. “They are referred to as POWs and MIAs, but we call them comrades. They are unable to be with their loved ones so we join together to pay humble tribute to them.”

Monday’s ceremony was also attended by Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who said his grandfathers served in World War I and his father served in World War II.

“I know that everything that my brother and I have been able to accomplish, all that we’ve been able to experience, was because of the sacrifices of our grandfathers and our dad,” he said.

The ceremony was also attended by U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va. and Mike Browning, representative of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Miller said she’s proud to be part of the Vietnam War generation, which is only recently being celebrated for their sacrifices. Many Vietnam War veterans did not receive a heroes’ welcome when they returned home.

Browning read a statement from Manchin, who said he’s proud that West Virginia has more veterans per capita than most any other state in the nation. West Virginians has also shed more blood and lost more lives in wartime than any other state. West Virginians have always answered the call of duty, he said.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.


News
Winter already? Snow, deep freeze from Rockies to East Coast

CHICAGO — An arctic air mass that brought snow and ice to an area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to northern New England on Monday was poised to give way to record-breaking cold temperatures today.

In Chicago, where as much as 6 inches of snow fell, an Envoy Air flight from Greensboro, North Carolina, slid off an icy runway at O’Hare International Airport as it tried to land at about 7:45 a.m. None of the 38 passengers and three crew members were injured, according to the city’s aviation department. And in Kansas, the highway patrol reported that a truck driving on the highway lost control on an icy road and slammed head-on into another truck, killing a juvenile in the other vehicle.

Snowfall totals could reach up to a foot or more in some areas of Indiana, Michigan and Vermont, according to the National Weather Service.

A strong arctic cold front was expected cross West Virginia, bringing a dramatic drop in temperatures, along with winter weather and wind chill advisories from the National Weather Service in Charleston.

On Monday temperatures in the Huntington and Charleston region reached the mid-60s, but rain was predicted to switch to snow overnight and continue into part of Tuesday.

“Generally 1 to 2 inches can be expected, with amounts to 4 inches in the mountains,” the National Weather Service forecast said on Monday evening. “Roads may become slick by Tuesday morning, making for a treacherous commute.”

A wind chill advisory has also been issued for the region. As a result, Harmony House on 4th Avenue in Huntington made plans to be open at 6 a.m. Tuesday for those who are unsheltered.

“Very cold wind chills expected,” the advisory said. “Wind chills as low as 15 below zero.”

The winter weather advisory remains in effect from 1 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and the wind chill advisory remains in effect from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Forecasters also said if Huntington and Charleston receive an inch of snow Tuesday it would be the earliest inch of snow since November 2013.

Other places in the path of Monday’s air mass saw ice and rain. Denver saw just a few inches of snow but suffered numerous accidents on icy roadways because the snow fell during the morning commute.

More than 950 flights were canceled at Chicago’s airports and officials in the area opened warming centers. In Michigan, some schools closed early, as did dozens of schools in the St. Louis area.

The snow and ice was just the first punch from a weather system that pushed frigid air from Siberia across an area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Temperatures below freezing were forecast as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast.

“This is an air mass that’s more typical for the middle of January than mid-November,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk. “It is pretty much about the coldest we can be this time of year (and) it could break records all over the region.”

According to Birk, the lows on Tuesday could drop into the single digits or low teens in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, with highs climbing no further than the low 20s. The forecast high of 21 degrees for Chicago would be a full seven degrees lower than the previous record set for Nov. 12.

In some areas, temperatures plunged quickly. Temperatures in Denver climbed past 70 degrees over the weekend only to fall to 14 degrees early Monday.

One area where the low temperatures was particularly concerning was in central Wyoming, where officials were searching for a 16-year-old autistic boy who went missing wearing only his pajamas on Sunday, prompting a search that included certified human trackers, helicopters, dogs, and planes.

The National Weather Service said areas west of the Rocky Mountains would be spared the arctic air, with above average temperatures expected in some of those places.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.