Functioning under the authority of Chapter 467 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, the Professional Recovery Network (PRN) provides intervention, treatment & continued support and advocacy to dentist’s suffering from chemical dependency and/or mental illness with the goal of integrating them back into professional practice. Due to its confidential nature, the PRN offers an incentive for impaired dentists to commit to a program of recovery thereby avoiding potential harm to the public or themselves.
Entry to the program begins with a report to PRN. Concerned colleagues, friends, and family may report the dentist to PRN if they have information relating to the professional’s impairment due to mental illness or chemical dependency. In fact, a license holder who is required to report knowledge of an impaired professional satisfies that mandate if they refer the dentist to PRN. Frequently the dentist will self-refer themselves to the program, an avenue which is highly encouraged and can lessen the chance of a later disciplinary sanction. The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners also has the option to refer impaired professionals in lieu of a disciplinary action.
Once PRN receives a report they will contact the dentist and send them to an evaluation by a mental health professional. After evaluation, the license holder will sign a Recovery Support Agreement with the program committing themselves to treatment and a continued aftercare plan of recovery and also authorizing PRN to disclose their records if they drop out of the program or otherwise fail to adhere to their contract. This Agreement will outline the proposed treatment and incorporate recommendations made by the evaluator. By entering into the Recovery Agreement, the dentist consents to maintaining contact with the PRN Staff and an assigned mentor, writing quarterly recovery reports, and, if appropriate, undergoing random drug screens. The pharmacist’s mentor, who is a dentist with either a long history of sobriety or extensive experience in a twelve-step or similar recovery program, is there to support, advise, and advocate for the professional throughout treatment.
As long as the dentist adheres to the Recovery Support Agreement their treatment should remain confidential and formal disciplinary proceedings may be avoided. The Board may only disclose the dentist’s treatment and the nature of their impairment in a subsequent disciplinary hearing, to a state licensing body in another jurisdiction, or in response to a court order. If the Board determines that the dentist’s impairment is to such a level that it poses a potential danger to the public, they can only disclose that the professional’s license has been suspended, probated, or revoked, not the specific nature of the impairment. Yet, any disciplinary order entered by the Board pursuant to such a report will only remain confidential if the licensee agrees to the order and there is no previous or pending action, complaint, or investigation concerning the licensee involving malpractice, injury, or harm to any member of the public.
If the dentist fails to comply with their Recovery Support Agreement, then the initial report and the nature of the dentist’s impairment / intemperate use may become public and the Board may initiate a disciplinary action. PRN may also disclose the report to the Board if the licensee refuses to see a mental evaluator or undergo treatment. In these cases the State Board of Dental Examiners is likely to pursue disciplinary action as the problem will be seen as not being taken seriously or so advanced that additional intervention and consequences are needed. Even if the dentist is not actually chemically dependent or suffering from a mental health problem, they are not in a credible position to argue that point. Here, hiring an attorney becomes a necessity as the penalties imposed by the Board can be severe. Moreover, a lawyer experienced in professional licensing / administrative law and recovery from chemical dependency can ensure that the dentist doesn’t make any mistakes or admissions that can create obstacles to their recovery and future practice..
More information on the Professional Recovery Network can be found at the PRN section of the TexasPharmacy Association’s website: (www.texaspharmacy.org).