In 2009 the Oregon Legislature passed legislation that directs the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) to establish a new consolidated, statewide monitoring program for licensees who are unable to practice with professional skill and safety due to a substance use disorder, a mental health disorder, or both types of disorders. The new Health Professionals' Services Program (HPSP) will provide non-treatment compliance monitoring and reporting services under a single set of rules that apply to all health professions. The purpose of the program is to protect public safety through more rigorous monitoring of enrolled licensees.
The four regulatory boards with existing diversion programs that are immediately affected by the legislation are the Board of Dentistry, the Board of Nursing (OSBN), the Board of Pharmacy, and the Oregon Medical Board. Other health profession licensing boards that are authorized by law to take disciplinary action against licensees, such as the Board of Licensed Social Workers and the Board of Licensed professional Counselors and Therapists, may also opt to participate in the new consolidated program.
DHS conducted a competitive process and selected Reliant Behavioral Health, an Oregon company, to operate the program. In addition, administrative rules are being drafted. Implementation is expected to be on time beginning July 1, 2010.
Implications for Oregon Nurses
The legislation requires any health professional regulatory board with a health professional monitoring program to transfer the board’s current participants to the new program by July 1, 2010. Many of the program expectations will be similar to the current Nurse Monitoring Program. For example, OSBN will continue to conduct investigations prior to referring a licensee to monitoring, will determine which clinicians are qualified to conduct evaluations for substance use and mental health disorders, and recommend practice limitations when a nurse returns to work. OSBN will be distributing information about how transition will occur for currently enrolled nurses.
Unlike the current Nurse Monitoring Program, nurses will have a new option of entering the program without a full board investigation. The new "other referral” option allows the nurse to remain confidential from OSBN. The HPSP will conduct an investigation to assess the safety risk to the public, require an attestation that the licensee is not under investigation, and require clinical evaluation by a qualified independent third party. Unlike board-referred licensees, as long as an other-referred licensee remains compliant with the monitoring agreement, OSBN will not know that they enrolled, participated, and completed the program. However, substantial non-compliance will trigger communication of limited information to OSBN which is required to investigate.
Finally, the new law requires that employers must establish minimum supervisor training standards for those who supervise nurses in monitoring. To assure workplace safety and fairness, Oregon Nurses Association supports the focus of employer supervision on nurse performance and effective skill training for supervisors. ONA will remain actively involved in the development of model standards.