Licensing Board Investigations
Professional license investigations stem from several sources. The most prolific of which is failing work-place drug tests. (State law mandates medical employers report positive drugs tests for any illegal or prescribed narcotic for which no prescription is possessed.) The next avenue is new employment related failed drug test. The third source is when you self-report on the bi-annual license renewal a conviction for D.U.I. or a drug-related felony criminal offense. The final and most surreptitious way an investigation commences is an anonymous source complaining to the Board of your alleged drug use or mental health treatment.
The anonymous source is most troubling because it typically arises from a domestic dispute after which a scorned partner revengefully, but confidentially, reports your personal drug use, drug treatment, mental health care, or other improprieties. This source raises serious legal issues because it addresses private conduct, not related to work, not stemming from any workplace investigation, for which no criminal charges have been levied, and for which there is no evidence other than the reporter’s own words. Competence and impairment are not the focus of the complaint, but rather personal retribution.
Once the anonymous complaint is made, the typical state-agent investigatory pattern is as follows: 1) first they leaving you telephone message, then 2) leave business cards at your front door, and/or 3) attempt early evening surprise visits to your home. Absent positive drug tests, criminal investigations, or workplace reporting, the investigator will seek statements/admissions to corroborate the basis of the investigation. They want you to talk to make their job easier. If you admit, the investigation is successful.
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Statements are relatively easy to secure if you fall for the tricks. The investigator (a retired cop from Pittsburgh or Philadelphia) typically suggests:
1) “This could help avoid disciplinary action…”
2) “I am here to give you a chance to tell your side of the story…”
3) “You can tell your side of the story…” ; and
4) “I am here to make sure I have all of the information to tell the Board.”
All of these ice breakers suggest innocence, but are clearly and surreptitiously used to imply the statement will help you. Admitting to an impairment, drug use, or diversion will only hurt you and your license. If you give a cathartic admission of drug use or diversion, thinking such will appease and conclude an investigation, you are sadly incorrect.
In many cases, the only evidence of drug use stems from the licensee’s (your) own mouth (the admission). While there is a confidential report from which the investigation starts, there is no failed drug test, work place admission, criminal case, or DUI B.A.C. test result. There is no evidence. An admission gives the investigatory reason to continue the investigation.
After an admission, the investigator will seek medical authorizations, inpatient treatment records, and the like to support a broader impairment investigation. The investigator will surely NOT (based upon one’s licensees own admissions of drug use) terminate any investigation upon receipt of drug use evidence. An admission to an impairment will necessitate a monitoring program. (Please see my blogs about the rigorous nature of, and admissions required prior to, enrollment in any monitoring program for any licensee.)
So what is one to do? It is my recommendation that you immediately contact counsel. Do not make any statement against your license to any investigator. Absent cooperation, it is extremely difficult for the investigator to accumulate any evidence of drug use or impairment.
Inpatient treatment is just that, inpatient and confidential. Inpatient treatment on a short-term basis does not imply impairment. Many licensees have unrelated medical conditions for which prescription medications are medically authorized, taken, and appropriately sought to be weaned off of. Mere admission into an inpatient program to properly wean oneself off of Ambien, hydrocodone, Percocet, any other benzo’s, or prescription narcotic does not mean a finding of impairment or addiction.
Statements to investigators of casual/social alcohol or illicit narcotic use (marijuana or cocaine) will require further historical development of drug use from youth through adulthood. Admissions of drug use during teenage or college years permit investigators, social workers, assessors, evaluators, and other “quasi-drug addiction professional” (who work in the drug treatment centers where the Board evaluations are completed) to conclude long-term addiction and use histories. Current impairment conclusions will be based on such historical statements and for which monitoring will be required.
Consequently, anybody and everybody should not talk of these investigators without contacting counsel. Please call me at 215-665-0766 to discuss your scenario.