In a prior blog, I talked about the ability to maintain your license in the face of substance abuse addiction and a board prosecution.  I mentioned the Voluntary Recovery Program (VRP) and the Disciplinary Monitoring Unit DMU). These are very similar programs available to the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs and to be used by the various boards that fall under that umbrella (i.e. Accountancy).  They allow impaired professionals to continue to practice as long as they abide by the terms of the program.  Often any disciplinary action is deferred pending compliance with the program and then dropped upon successful completion.                 
     The VRP, as its name suggests, is voluntary.  The goal of this program is to allow impaired professionals to practice safely.  One of its greatest benefits is that enrollment in this program is confidential and there will not be any indication on your license that there has been any discipline for this occurrence.  This program is generally for individuals who have not had prior problems, particularly felony convictions.  When an issue is caught early before someone is convicted of any crimes, or maybe with just a DUI, this is a program which should be considered.  To be eligible to enroll in the VRP, one must undergo an assessment by a VRP assessor and be recommended for the program.  Then, the individual must enter a consent order with the board agreeing to disciplinary action which will be deferred as long as the licensee remains compliant with the terms of the VRP and which will include specified treatment and other conditions.                    
     There are several things that can make a licensee ineligible for the VRP.  These items include: felony drug convictions, a history of patient harm, a history of drug distribution or sales, sexual offenses and prior failure in this or a similar program.                   
     The DMU is not a voluntary program.  This program is for those individuals who are either not eligible for the VRP or who have been subject to formal discipline by their board and must comply in order to either continue to
practice or to get their license back.  Otherwise, the program is essentially the same as that of the VRP.  A licensee can fail out of the VRP for violating its terms and possibly still continue to practice if they can demonstrate that they will then be compliant with the DMU requirements, however, a hearing may be necessary.                 
     Neither option is a good idea for someone who is in an active addictive state because they will violate the terms of the program and find themselves facing the penalty that had been deferred by the board. The license will certainly be suspended pending a hearing with a positive drug test and/or failure to follow required treatment.                 
     If you find yourself suffering from a physical or mental impairment, you should consult with the appropriate professionals.  If you contact me, I can assist you through this process.
     If you are facing a licensing investigation due to a substance abuse issue, there is hope to maintain your license.  The licensing board may begin an investigation on the basis of a DUI or drug conviction or due to complaints received from a colleague or client.  It doesn’t matter what prompts the investigation, the consequences can be very serious.              
     The board has the authority to suspend your license pending a hearing if  they believe you constitute a danger to the public. While this process is most often used for the medical boards (including nurses), where patient safety is the number one priority, generally, it can be used by any of the boards.  Physicians must remember that they are required to disclose arrests for DUI within 60 days and cannot wait to see if they are convicted.                 
     It is imperative that you receive professional advice immediately, in order to most successfully navigate through this process and maintain your license.  You will need both legal advice and the advice of medical professionals.  Certainly, if there are criminal charges pending, you should have the advice of an experienced criminal attorney but they may not understand the impact that any charges or conviction would have upon your ability to practice.  Medical experts to assist you with any substance issue will be imperative to maintaining your license.
     If you have a substance abuse problem you will have to acknowledge it and receive professional help to address it in order to maintain your professional license and continue to practice.  You will be required to demonstrate that you can competently practice your profession.  Substance abuse counseling, in-patient treatment, AA meetings, and mental and/or physical examinations may all be necessary and will certainly be helpful to establish your ability to practice.  If the board allows you to continue to practice, they may require submission of the reports from the above treatment and may also require random drug and/or alcohol testing.  Further, they may require attendance at appropriate twelve step meetings and they may require a workplace monitor.  
     The random testing can take the form of urine, serum, blood, saliva, perspiration, or hair, although the most common is urine.  (False positive results can occur with these tests and it is extremely important to follow the specific onditions i.e. no poppy seeds on rolls etc.)  Workplace monitors can be a partner if approved by the board. There are two types of monitoring programs used by the Department of State to supervise practitioners and to ensure compliance with any Orders of the board.  Those programs are the Voluntary Recovery Program (VRP) and the Disciplinary Monitoring Unit (DMU).                   
     While substance abuse addiction and a board prosecution can be very daunting problems, with the assistance of the proper professionals you can maintain your license and continue to practice.  If you find yourself suffering from a physical or mental impairment you should consult with the appropriate professionals.  If you contact me, I can assist you through this process.