California To Strengthen Rules for Health Worker Diversion Programs
On Thursday, the California Department of Consumer Affairs released a stricter set of standards for overseeing health professionals with substance use problems, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The new rules appear to address issues raised in July when the Times and the not-for-profit news organization ProPublica investigated the state's drug and alcohol diversion program for nurses.
The Legislature last year created a committee to draft the rules after audits found significant problems in the Medical Board of California's diversion program for physicians.
The new regulations will apply directly to the seven boards that currently operate diversion programs.
The standards stipulate that:
- Health professionals suspected of drug misuse must undergo and pay for a clinical evaluation;
- Health professionals undergoing clinical evaluations would be prohibited from working and would need to take drug tests twice per week;
- Health workers in the diversion program would need to submit to random drug tests at least 104 times during their first year of participation;
- Officials would begin disciplinary action immediately for health workers who are ejected from the diversion program;
- Public Web sites would post information on health workers with inactive licenses or other work restrictions; and
- State health boards would need to report performance information to the Legislature and DCA.
What Happens Next
Officials have yet to finalize a timetable for the new rules. The Legislature will receive a copy of the regulations by Jan. 1 and will ask the health boards to implement the rules at some point afterward.To help enforce the new rules, DCA named Paul Riches to a new post as deputy director of enforcement and compliance. Riches previously served as executive officer of the Board of Behavioral Sciences (Ornstein/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 11/20). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.