The Health Professionals Recovery Program (HPRP) is a rigorous monitoring program designed to assist health professionals who struggle with substance abuse, chemical dependency, or mental illness. However, HPRP is not right for everyone and you should consult an attorney that specializes in dealing with professional licensing to determine if an HPRP monitoring agreement is right for you. A multi-year monitoring agreement with HPRP can be very expensive and time-consuming and could still result in action taken against your license.
HPRP was enacted by the Michigan Legislature in 1994 and is run by a private sector contractor; Ulliance Health, Inc. Physicians, nurses and other health professionals enter into the HPRP by way of a monitoring agreement which is a contract that specifies terms of treatment that the individual must abide by. Health professionals can be referred to HPRP two different ways “non-regulatory” referral and “regulatory” referral.
The first way is “non-regulatory” referral; this includes individuals who self-report to HPRP and those who are offered a “non-regulatory” status as part of an agreement with HPRP. It is called non-regulatory because the names of individuals participating in the HPRP may not be given to the public or to the State as long as the individual meets the program requirements. However, if the Health Professional fails to abide by even one aspect of the contract over the term of the contract, often as long as three years, the Health Professional will be reported to the state as “non-compliant”. While HPRP claims that “non-regulatory” referrals are confidential and voluntary, you should know that failure to sign a contract could result in a report to the Department of Community Health, Bureau of Health Professions. Once you sign a monitoring agreement, any breach of that agreement will be reported to the Department of Community Health, Bureau of Health Professions and your license could be in jeopardy.
Physicians, nurses and other health professionals may receive a “regulatory” referral as a result of a regulatory action taken on an individual’s license by their profession’s board or disciplinary subcommittee. “Regulatory” referrals are not confidential and your participation may be reported to your place of employment, a court, or in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.
Prior to being offered a monitoring agreement, HPRP will send an individual to an evaluator to determine if the Health Professional suffers from impairment due to substance abuse or mental illness. Under Section 333.16168 of the State of Michigan Public Health Code, if you choose not to follow through with evaluation, treatment, the recommendations of the HPRP or any authorized provider, or refuse to sign a monitoring agreement, the HPRP is required to send your name to the Department of Community Health, Bureau of Health Professions and your information will no longer be confidential – even if you self-reported.
Furthermore, if you are evaluated and the evaluator believes you are unsafe to practice, a summary suspension order could be placed on your license if you do not agree to enter a monitoring agreement. This means that you will not be able to practice until the order is lifted, if at all. You should consult an attorney who specializes in professional licensing prior to agreeing to an HPRP evaluation or monitoring agreement.
HPRP monitoring agreements can be negotiated with the assistance of an attorney, but often contain standard clauses that require frequent drug tests, breathalyzers, work-site monitoring, restrictions on ability to practice, limitation on hours worked, individual and group counseling, vacation approval process, requiring approval for legally prescribed medications, and regular reports to HPRP.
If you sign a monitoring agreement or are subject to “non-regulatory” referral you will be referred to an HPRP provider for a complete evaluation. Generally, the evaluator will require that you sign a release of information so that any information that you give the HPRP evaluator can be shared with HPRP. After an evaluation, the evaluator may find that you are high-risk and unsafe to practice and recommend that you do not return to work until you are safe to practice. While this is a recommendation, if you fail to comply with this recommendation you will be reported to the Department of Community Health, Bureau of Health Professions and you will likely face summary suspension of your license.
The costs of maintaining a compliant status in the HPRP are very high and the Health Professional is responsible for the costs of drug tests, therapy sessions, group counseling sessions, collection fees, and visits with addictionists and other physicians. Participants report that they spend up to $30,000 of their own money through the course of a three-year monitoring agreement. If you are in the program and you cannot afford it, your name will be reported to the Bureau of Health Professions as “non-compliant”.
If you are being investigated by the State of Michigan or are being evaluated by the HPRP you should consult with an attorney who is familiar with HPRP and professional licensing. Remember, it is your choice whether to enter the HPRP or not and an attorney can ensure that your rights are protected while still making sure you get the help you need.