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Officials Grapple With Physician Substance Abuse as State Diversion Program Nears End

In a California Healthline Special Report, officials discussed calls to revamp substance abuse treatment programs for physicians and other health care workers.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Richard Fantozzi, president of the Medical Board of California;
  • Russ Heimerich of the Department of Consumer Affairs; and
  • David Pating, immediate past president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine.

Currently, the medical board operates a drug diversion program that allows doctors with substance abuse problems to keep their medical licenses if they undergo treatment and submit to random drug testing. However, the board plans to shut down the program in June because of a state audit that revealed operational inconsistencies and other issues.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) is calling for audits of diversion programs for nurses, pharmacists, physicians assistants, osteopaths and other health care professionals.

With drug diversion programs in the spotlight, Pating and the state are working to develop a replacement program for physicians that would focus on prevention and early intervention (Kennedy, California Healthline, 3/19).

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