By: Heather Miller and Kelsey Greenfield
In May, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 229, which changes the impaired practitioner program. The impaired practitioner program aims to assist healthcare practitioners whose ability to practice safely is impacted by the misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or by a mental or physical condition. If a licensee knows that a colleague has an impairment impacting their practice, the licensee is obligated to report it. Under the new law, a licensee’s duty to report colleagues is still only triggered by having knowledge of that impairment, not just a suspicion. While the standard for reporting remains the same, the new law creates another channel for reporting. Instead of reporting directly to the Florida Department of Health (DOH) or the applicable regulatory board, a licensee can report an impaired colleague to the individual or entity (known as a ‘consultant’) who operates an approved impaired practitioner program pursuant to a contract with the DOH. If an individual, a consultant is a practitioner licensed under chapter 458, chapter 459, or part I of chapter 464. If an entity, the entity must employ either a medical director licensed under chapter 457 or chapter 459, or an executive director licensed under part I of chapter 464. Individual practice acts have also been amended to include language concerning the new consultant reporting channel.