Chemical Dependency Programs and Health Care Professionals

Washington State Department of Health | WSDH | Chemical Dependency Programs and Health Care Professionals | Credentials and Licensing | A Lawyer’s Perspective.

Washington-Department-of-Health-logoAs attorneys who practice criminal and administrative law, not only do we help clients who are facing pure administrative actions against their license based on addiction or impairment, we also help clients deal with the Washington State Department of Health, WSDH, licensure issues resulting from allegations of criminal behavior or convictions. An all too common issue involving health care practitioners involves allegations of chemical impairment surrounding substance use or abuse. In these circumstances, knowing about the chemical dependency programs for health care professionals and knowing how to handle the criminal exposure of such conduct is essential in making a wise decision. The lawyers | attorneys in our office are driven, compassionate and well versed in the issues and troubles that people can get into around use, abuse and addiction.  We are also aware of the complications surrounding being a licensed professional and keeping that license.

As attorneys, unless we are dealing with a case that involves a false or exaggerated allegation of substance abuse, a primary component of handling a criminal and administrative matter involving chemical impairment is helping clients and their families deal with the sometimes conflicting goals of the Washington Department of Health and prosecution by the Washington criminal code. This is in part because the constitutional issues that apply in a criminal case do not necessary apply to an administrative sanction case, meaning, cases can be dismissed in criminal court and still be pursued administratively by the Washington State Department of Health. Often, this means consultations and discussions about what is involved in an evaluation, lengthy “down to earth” discussions about what is going on, and what impact and evaluation or treatment can have on someone’s personal and professional life with the big picture in mind. As attorneys, our goal is to first try to help clients deal with this matter as privately as possible … not because there should be any shame in addiction or chemical abuse; but, rather, because we find clients are better able to deal with the issues at hand, at least initially, if they are not burdened with the complications of public discussion. Once any treatment plan is worked out, stabilized and implemented, it is easier for clients to find the right words to talk about their situation with others. This is time tested wisdom.

From our perspective as attorneys dealing with administrative issues surrounding professional licenses involving chemical impairment, it is necessary that clients know about the pros and cons of these three agencies:

  • The Washington Physicians Health Program (WPHP). This program is a nonprofit set up in 1986 by the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) to assist physicians, physician assistants, dentists, veterinarians and podiatrists.Providers who either refer themselves or are referred to WPHP will not have their identity made known to their corresponding board or commission as long as they are compliant with the recommendations of WPHP and do not constitute a clear and present danger to the public and the complaint involves a pure addition issue (no patient harm, no sexual boundary issues etc.). This program is under contract and monitored by the Washington State Department of Health.
  • Washington Recovery Assistance Program for Pharmacy (WRAPP) is a contracted program that works with chemically impaired pharmacists and other credentialed pharmacy staff.
  • Washington Health Professional Services (WHPS) is a Washington State Department of Health program that works with all other chemically impaired health professionals not served by WPHP or WRAPP.

Keep in mind disciplining authorities can refer practitioners to these programs. They may also require providers to enter the program as a condition of practice or return to practice see  Stipulation to Informal Disposition (STID). Additionally, keep in mind practitioners can voluntarily participate in one of the programs if they have an active health care credential in Washington. Again, the substance abuse monitoring programs must report practitioners to the department if they don’t comply with the conditions of a monitoring contract, however voluntary participation, not referred participation in a chemical dependency program by a health care professional is generally not reported, with some qualifications. If you are considering this route, contact our office for a fact specific consultation. These situations are always loaded with questions and command decisions and therefore will likely require the assistance of seasoned objective counsel.

If you are seriously considering entering one of these programs voluntarily or are facing an civil investigation or criminal investigation and think one of these programs would be of value, we highly recommend that you contact our office and set up an appointment. The lawyers in our office are highly experienced in addiction issues and long in common sense and logic. Using us means you have the service and counsel of independent third parties who are also bound by attorney/client privilege to keep your questions and thoughts private while capable of giving thoughtful advice steeped in experience. When professional and personal livelihood is on the line, this is a valuable commodity.

This firm of lawyers is a unique blend of litigation skills, experience, knowledge and temperament. Whether we are in the role of legal counsel, ambassador, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience resolving complex situations with our clients’ best interests in mind. Choosing incompetent, lazy or ineffective counsel can make your legal journey a long and difficult road. This firm is founded on a service, a blue-collar work ethic, teamwork and an intense dislike of losing. Call 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

Robert Rhodes

With a successful background in law, courtrooms, wrestling, rugby and jujitsu, Robert Rhodes’s nature is well-suited for argument and litigation. Mr. Rhodes knows how to talk clearly and directly to his clients, adversaries and to the Court. His common sense, straight talk and experience put his clients immediately at ease. Mr. Rhodes does not do anything half way and you will sense this when you meet him. Read more >>