Respiratory care therapist charged with unprofessional conduct

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— A local health care provider has been suspended from his ability to practice and charged with unprofessional conduct by the Washington state Department of Health.

Stephen D. Miller was licensed as a respiratory care therapist in April 2009, according to the state. Miller was working at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Veterans Affairs Medical Center when he wielded a knife and attacked a Walla Walla woman in the garden center of Kmart in December 2010.

In March 2011, he pleaded guilty in Walla Walla County Superior Court to third-degree assault, expressing remorse and that he didn’t understand his own actions. He later told state health officials his memory of the incident was “blank” and attributed it to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Miller served 84 days in jail and was ordered to be under community supervision for a year. He was advised by Judge John Lohrmann to seek mental-health help.

Jerry Liskey, Miller’s co-worker at the VA, told health department officials he believed Miller’s PTSD was being monitored by a VA program and that Miller is “safe to practice,” officials said. Liskey conceded he was caught completely by surprise by his coworker’s episode of violence, however.

Health law judge Debra Defreyn determined that Liskey is not trained in mental health evaluation, “and his belief that the respondent is in a ‘program’ dealing with PTSD is insufficient to protect the public,” the judge said in the DOH order of suspension, signed July 23.

Miller’s credential are indefinitely suspended until he completes a mental-health evaluation and show proof he poses no threat to patient safety.

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