What is the Health Professionals Recovery Program (HPRP)?

The Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP) is designed to encourage healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other medical and mental healthcare providers, who may suffer from substance abuse or mental health disorders, to seek help in a confidential and non-disciplinary process.  HPRP is administered by a private contractor under the direction of the Michigan Bureau of Professional Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

As a participant in the program, a healthcare provider agrees to either a substance abuse or a mental health evaluation.  Based on the evaluation, HPRP may recommend a treatment plan that includes a monitoring agreement.  The monitoring agreement is a binding contract.

How does a healthcare provider initiate engagement with the HPRP?

A healthcare provider can access HPRP in two basic ways.  One way is to self-report before any regulatory action has been taken against the provider.  Alternatively, a provider can also be referred to HPRP as a result of a regulatory action.

What are the risks associated with participating in the HPRP?

While there is usually an increased level of confidentiality in self-reporting, there are several risks associated with self-reporting to the HPRP that should be carefully considered by the healthcare provider.  A healthcare provider might reveal information at the initial HPRP evaluation that could be interpreted (by HPRP) as a risk to the patients of such healthcare provider.  If this occurs, then HPRP might recommend that the provider not return to work until after somebody in HPRP indicates that he or she is safe to practice again.  If the healthcare provider does not comply with any such recommendation, then the healthcare provider may be reported to LARA and could potentially face a summary suspension of the healthcare provider’s license.

Another risk of self-reporting is that HPRP might recommend a burdensome monitoring agreement after an initial intake evaluation.  If the healthcare provider does not agree to sign any such monitoring agreement, then the healthcare provider could face a summary suspension of their license, which would preclude them from practicing until the summary suspension order is lifted.  Often monitoring agreements proposed by HPRP will place time-consuming and expensive requirements on the healthcare provider, to the point where complying with the monitoring agreement may not be feasible.

Under section 333.16168 of the Michigan Public Health Code, if a healthcare provider fails to comply with the monitoring agreement, then HPRP is required to send the provider’s name to LARA, even if the provider had initially self-reported.

As mentioned above, sometimes professionals are referred to HPRP after regulatory action (such as the filing of an administrative complaint).  In such situations, there is normally less confidentiality associated with the HPRP process, as compared with self-reporting in the context of a pre-regulatory action referral.  The details of this should be discussed with experienced legal counsel.  In the context of a post-regulatory action referral to HPRP, all of the same issues and risks would be present, including potentially having to choose between signing a burdensome monitoring agreement or alternatively facing disciplinary action or summary suspension by LARA.  On the other hand, a post-regulatory action referral to HPRP may be the best alternative for the healthcare provider, depending upon what disciplinary action might be likely by LARA in the event that the healthcare provider would not agree to go through HPRP, as well as on other facts and circumstances.

Having an attorney who is experienced with licensing cases can help healthcare providers make the best evaluation possible of the risks that may be associated with HPRP, in contrast to those associated with other alternatives that may be available.  In addition, experienced legal counsel can help to protect the healthcare provider’s rights and interests when dealing with HPRP.  If you are a healthcare provider who is considering self-reporting to HPRP, or who has been presented with a post-regulatory action referral to HPRP, a consultation with a licensing defense attorney can assist in many different ways, including those mentioned above, and also in identifying additional resources and guiding you through the process.  For more information regarding these matters, please contact Douglas Vanden Berge at 616.233.5127 or dpvanden@rhoadesmckee.com.

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