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Seven Things To Know When You Receive A Notice Of Investigation From The Department Of Health

Going For an Evaluation With Your State Providers Health Program, Peer Assistance Program, Intervention Project for Nurses, or Professionals Resource Network? Tips on What NOT To Do!

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

So you are a physician, nurse or other health professional who has been accused of drug diversion, alcohol use at work, being impaired because of use of drugs or alcohol, or being positive on a drug test.  You have been reported to the state board or to your employer who has now reported you to the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN), the state peer assistance program, or the providers health program. It has contacted you and you have agreed to go to an evaluation by one of the program’s trained evaluators.

Here are a few tips that may help you. These are based on the mistakes that our clients have made before contacting us or retaining us to advise and assist in such matters.

1.    Stop drinking alcoholic beverages immediately upon learning that you are facing scrutiny.  Do not begin drinking again until the entire case is completely resolved. (Hint:  If you cannot stop drinking or do not want to stop drinking, then you are probably an alcoholic and should be in a recovery monitoring program.)

2.    In most cases, you will be required to provide a urine sample, a blood sample, a nail sample and/or a hair sample.  This may disclose your use of drugs and alcohol even many weeks or months after-the-fact.  Be aware that this may occur.

3.    Be on time to your evaluation.  Being late for an important, career-affecting event may be the sign of a real problem or lack of adequate judgment.  Plan ahead.  Leave early. Prepare for the unexpected.

4.    Do not take tranquilizers, mood stabilizers or other medications immediately prior to your appointment with

5.    Dress and groom appropriately.  If your clothes and your person are dirty and unkempt, this may be considered to be a sign of an underlying problem.

6.    Answer any questions the evaluator asks briefly and concisely.  Do not volunteer information not requested.  This is not a confessional, you are not there to confess your sins.  You should know that there are a number of “red flags” that psychologists and psychiatrists use against you to find that you have a significant problem that requires treatment and long-term monitoring.  For example, if your parents divorced, this is a red flag and counts against you (yes, I have argued with a psychologist that over half the marriages in the U.S. wind up in a divorce).  Having a relative with an addiction an alcohol problem or a mental disorder will also do this.  Be careful about whom you say was an alcoholic if you haven’t seen the doctors‘s diagnosis of it.

7.    There are some things that the only way the evaluator will know of these is if you tell her.  For example, if no one knows you were sexually abused by a relative when you were young, this is not the time or place to tell.  You are not there for treatment.  This is not your doctor or therapist.

8.    There is no confidentiality in such an evaluation.  Nothing you tell the evaluator is confidential;.  And it can be used against you later.

Before going for such an evaluation, consult with an experienced health care attorney, one who is familiar with such matters and is familiar with the licensing issues for your profession. To learn more, read one of our prior blogs on this topic here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving PRN or IPN.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPNOur attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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