A central Arkansas nurse’s license has been placed on probation following a hearing Wednesday morning after a rehab patient died of an overdose inside his home nearly a year ago. 

The Arkansas State Board of Nursing laid out its findings against Justin Lusby during a hearing, which the nurse did not attend.

According to the Board, Lusby met 20-year-old Joely Clements while she was a patient and he was a nurse at Rivendell Behavioral Health Services in Benton. The Board found Lusby let Joely stay as his home, days after she finished rehab. The Board also noted that Lusby went on an overnight trip and wasn’t home when Joely overdosed in his bed.   
“He had a very serious allegation,” said Executive Director of the State Board of Nursing, Sue Tedford. “It’s always concerning any time a nurse gets involved personally with a patient.”

Tedford did acknowledge that Lusby told Little Rock police that Joely talked about wanting to use drugs hours before he left for his trip. 

“As a nurse yes you are a mandatory reporter,” Tedford said. “Somebody wanting to use drugs is something you would think you would call the police or notify somebody on, for whatever reason he did or didn’t do that.”

According to the Board, the only thing it can cite Lusby for is having an inappropriate relationship.

“The only violation of the nurse practice act that Mr. Lusby had was a boundary violation,” Tedford explained. 

Lusby’s license was already on probation until November of this year, the order agreed to Wednesday adds four more years to that. 

As part of Lusby’s probation, his employer was supposed to report any disciplinary action. The Board found Rivendell failed to report at least five write-ups that were kept in Lusby’s employment record, but says there’s not much it can do now. 

“We would have liked to have seen those. We never know when we’re dealing with employers what they see as serious,” explained the Board’s General Counsel Fred Knight. “We have no authority over the employers so we’re bound by the documentation they send us.”

This case has Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) questioning whether lawmakers need to tighten regulations for nurses. 

“I think the board went as extreme as it could,” Sen. Hammer said. “Whether it was a case of poor judgment, compassion, passion, whatever the case may be I don’t know, but it seems like it would be a good model for us to look as to why that situation existed and why there wasn’t greater accountability.”

In a unanimous vote the Board agreed to Lusby’s probation, which will require quarterly evaluation reports from his employer sent to the state. 

“It was a tragedy that she did die, but that’s not a violation of the nurse practice act,” Tedford said.

Original story: 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- A central Arkansas nurse is still practicing nearly a year after a rehab patient died of an overdose inside his home. 

For the second time, the state nursing board will decide if he’ll get to keep his license, an answer that could come Wednesday. 

A grieving father believes his daughter’s death could have been prevented if someone took a closer look. 

Photos of Joely Clements paint a picture of an only child raised by her dad, starting to pave her way into college, smiles masking a struggle with addiction. 

The shutter stops days before celebrating her 21st birthday. 

“It’s just simply a nightmare,” says Andy Clements, Joely’s dad. 

A different image of Joely seen inside a Little Rock apartment last year, where she died chasing a high. 

Police found the heroin needle still in her neck.

“I can’t right now, sorry,” says Clements. 

Grief holds back Clements from even talking about his daughter, calling her overdose preventable. 

“Really makes me angry,” Clements says. 

The focus shifts to Justin Lusby, a nurse Joely met while getting treatment at Rivendell Behavioral Health Services in Benton.

In a police interview transcript, Lusby says he asked Joely on a date, then let her stay at his apartment days after she finished rehab. 

The 30-year-old told detectives Joely talked about wanting to use drugs hours before he left for a trip. 

While the nurse was gone, Joely overdosed in his bed. 

“I’d like to know why his license hasn’t been taken away,” Clements wonders. 

Concern over Lusby’s nursing license dates back to 2014. 

While working at a Camden hospital, he admitted to stealing pain medication and popping those pills on the job. 

That landed Lusby on probation with the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. 

Hundreds of personnel documents are a glimpse into what happened next at Rivendell. 

Under probation, Lusby and his employer had to send reports, including disciplinary action, to the state board. 

The evaluations sent in were just a snapshot. 

Rivendell HR files show a bigger picture, six write-ups. 

One cites Lusby for “poor performance” and “narcotic count discrepancies”. 

None of that shows up on the report the state received. 

Instead, Lusby’s quality of work shows as “exceptional”. It even says he was never disciplined. 

The pattern continues until a letter to the board just after Joely’s death, saying Lusby was fired for “gross misconduct with a patient”. That patient was Joely. 

“I feel like when he lost his job at Rivendell that the nursing board, I guess, should have taken his license,” Clements says. 

Instead, the board started an investigation. A year later, there’s still no decision. Lusby keeps working with addiction patients, just at a different rehab. 

“Do people that do the hiring even look at people’s backgrounds? Or resumes?” Clements asks. 

The other sides in this story are staying quiet. 

KARK reached out to Lusby, the state board of nursing, Rivendell and its parent company, Universal Helth Services. They either didn’t respond or chose not to comment.

Wanting justice for Joely, Clements filed a lawsuit, naming the nurse and the rehab. 

“A person will never know until it happens to them, what it feels like, and it does not go away,” says Clements. 

Drugs erase any dream of this father filling new frames. 

“She was my sunshine,” Clements says. 

The state board of nursing meets Wednesday. KARK will be following what they decide about the future of Lusby’s license. 

As far as the lawsuit, that’s set for trial in August.