Help for Connecticut Nurses Facing Substance Abuse Issues

If you are a nurse licensed for practice in Connecticut but facing substance abuse issues threatening your license, then you need the skilled and experienced help of the Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team. You may have the Health Assistance Intervention Network (HAVEN) available to you to defer disciplinary proceedings and potentially avoid license suspension, revocation, or other crippling sanctions. However, the HAVEN program and other deferral terms can present their own challenges to you for retaining your license. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now for our representation, advice, and advocacy for your best disciplinary outcome relating to substance abuse issues. Your Connecticut nursing license and practice are worth protecting.

Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Dependency in Nursing

The nursing profession, like other health professions, faces special challenges over substance abuse, addiction, and dependency. The Journal of Nursing Regulation reports that registered nurses misuse prescription-type drugs at greater rates than the general U.S. population. They also suffer substance use disorders at a greater rate and use energy drinks and other stimulants at greater rates. Nearly one in five nurses screen positive for substance abuse problems. One-third of those nurses have diagnosable substance abuse disorders. Clinical nurse practitioners have about ten times the likelihood of a substance abuse issue as nurse educators and researchers, showing that clinical nursing practice is a primary driver of substance abuse, addiction, and dependency. The National Library of Medicine further reports a study showing significantly increased stress among nurses nationwide during the pandemic associated with increased substance abuse. Nursing isn't getting any easier.

Triggers for Nursing Substance Abuse and Dependency

As an experienced nurse, you should already appreciate how nursing practice and other incidents can trigger or promote substance abuse and dependency. First, as a nurse, you have unusual private access to controlled substances in the form of prescription medications. Access can mean the temptation to divert, steal, and misuse those medications. Access can also mean false charges of diversion when others are responsible. The stresses of nursing practice can also promote self-medication with alcohol or illicit drugs, or overuse of prescription medication, dependency, and addiction. Nurses also get stopped and criminally charged for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Nurses may also come to work intoxicated or appear to be hungover or strung out on drugs. Any of these matters can trigger colleague, employer, or patient complaints and disciplinary charges.

Regulation of Connecticut Nursing Practice

Connecticut's Board of Examiners for Nursing regulates the practice of nursing in the state. You must obtain your nursing license from the Board of Examiners and maintain it in good standing against disciplinary charges. The Board of Examiners has the statutory and regulatory authority to charge and discipline nurses, suspending or revoking their license. The Board of Examiners regularly publishes license actions it has taken against its nurses in quarterly reports. Review the latest quarterly report, and you can readily see that many of those disciplinary actions are due to substance abuse and drug issues. You won't be able to hide your license discipline from your nursing employer. Don't ignore charges or allegations. Instead, get our help defending, addressing, and defeating the charges, whether by diversion or other appropriate means.

Connecticut Nursing Substance Abuse Issues

Substance abuse among nurses is a national professional problem. But Connecticut nurses are not immune to the problem. The nonprofit Connecticut Health Investigative Team reports that 82% of Connecticut nurse disciplinary cases involve some form of substance abuse, addiction, or dependency. By far, most of those substance abuse cases, at 77%, involve a nurse misusing drugs. By contrast, only 23% of those disciplinary cases involve a nurse misusing alcohol. But both alcohol and drug abuse factor very heavily in the total number and percentage of Connecticut nurse disciplinary cases. You are not alone if you have a substance abuse, addiction, or dependency issue affecting your nursing practice in Connecticut. Connecticut nurses have substance abuse issues, just like nurses elsewhere.

Available Connecticut Nursing Intervention Program

Connecticut's Board of Examiners for Nursing is well aware of the very high incidence of substance abuse issues among nurses facing discipline. Believe it or not, from the disciplinary charges you may already face, disciplinary officials of the Board of Examiners would generally prefer to treat a charged nurse's substance abuse issue as a medical and treatable issue rather than a punishable disciplinary wrong, at least in a first instance and under relatively innocent circumstances where no harm has yet occurred to any patient. Indeed, the Connecticut legislature authorized the state's health professions to form a substance abuse diversion program to work with the Board of Examiners' disciplinary officials to protect both patients and the public while preserving nursing careers and maintaining an adequate nursing profession.

Connecticut's HAVEN Disciplinary Diversion Program

Acting under the above legislation, the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants, Nurses Association, Dental Association, Medical Society, and Veterinary Medicine Association came together as a coalition of healthcare professionals to form the Connecticut Health Assistance Intervention Network (HAVEN). HAVEN is the nurse discipline diversion program that may be available to you to avoid disciplinary proceedings and sanctions. HAVEN's peer-based officials work not only with nurses having substance abuse, addiction, and dependency issues but also with physical and mental health issues and emotional disorders. HAVEN states that it is a confidential program. HAVEN does not provide treatment services but instead helps you develop a treatment plan and refers you to approved treatment providers.

How Substance Abuse Treatment Diversion Should Work

When you or a colleague or employer concerned about your substance abuse contacts HAVEN, the intake person will ask whether you have any felony charges or convictions, past or pending licensure disciplinary actions, or allegations of patient harm. If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then HAVEN officials must notify the Connecticut Department of Public Health to determine your eligibility for program participation. Connecticut Public Act 07-103 provides that before “admitting a health care professional into the assistance program,” a review committee must both determine the professional's fitness as a program candidate and “establish the participant's terms and conditions for participating in the program.” You should soon learn the Department of Public Health's terms and conditions for your HAVEN program participation.

The Connecticut HAVEN Program Health Contract

When the HAVEN Medical Review Committee approves your program participation, it states the terms and conditions you must meet to successfully complete the program. Successful program completion is likely to be a condition of your diversion from the Connecticut Board of Examiners for Nursing disciplinary procedures if you have already faced a disciplinary complaint. HAVEN puts the Medical Review Committee's terms and conditions in a health contract for you to approve and sign. While the theory of intervention and diversion is good, the practice can be very challenging on top of all of your other personal and professional obligations. Your health contract may include a wide range of onerous requirements, including but not limited to any or all of the following:

● appearance before various specified mental health and addiction professionals for examination, at your cost, whether covered by insurance or not;

● periodic drug and alcohol testing at a specific time and place, whether convenient to your travel, work, and school schedule or not;

● mental health and addiction treatment as recommended by the specified examiners, administered by professionals the program chooses, whether or not approved by you;

● compliance with rigorous counseling, psychotherapy, medication, and other treatment regimens, whether or not convenient to you, approved by you, or affordable or insured;

● your authorization to share confidential medical information and reports with HAVEN officials and other agency officials with whom HAVEN officials work;

● restrictions on your social activities, such as non-attendance at events or locations serving alcohol, and your abstention from alcohol and drugs, potentially including restrictions on helpful prescription medications;

● various fees, charges, and expenses associated with program administration and compliance, together with your payment of all other costs of testing, evaluation, and treatment; and

● various penalties for non-compliance such as repeat evaluation, additional treatment or counseling, and surcharges, up to program dismissal and referral for discipline.

Negotiating HAVEN Health Contract Terms

The Connecticut HAVEN program recognizes that some participants may object to one or more of the above terms and conditions as the Medical Review Committee imposes them. HAVEN's website indicates that you “may ask” the Medical Review Committee “to reconsider, may ask for review by” an Oversight Committee, or “may meet to explore” options with the disciplinary authorities at the state's Department of Public Health. Asking for different terms is fine. Getting different terms may be hard or impossible. We may be able to help you negotiate away terms that are unnecessary, costly, and difficult or impossible for you to meet. Ultimately, though, your rejection of the Medical Review Committee's proposed contract may mean your rejection from the HAVEN program and your referral back to disciplinary authorities to proceed as they see fit. Your best route may indeed be to have our help contesting disciplinary charges rather than agreeing to a health contract that sets you up for failure.

Connecticut HAVEN Program Health Contract Monitoring

If you approve and sign the HAVEN program health contract, HAVEN officials will request and receive monthly or quarterly reports from the health examiners and treaters whom the health contract requires you to visit. This monitoring may have a lot to do with your successful program outcome. HAVEN's website warns, “HAVEN will support and advocate commensurate with the professional's commitment to the health contract.” Another section on your accountability to HAVEN warns that HAVEN monitors your “engagement and attempts to ensure that the data required for advocacy” on your behalf is available. In other words, if your monitoring reports show your failure to attend or your non-compliance with evaluation and treatment recommendations and other terms, then HAVEN officials may decide that you have breached the health contract and should suffer program dismissal. They may advocate against you rather than for you with disciplinary officials and other state regulatory authorities.

How Long Does HAVEN Health Monitoring Last?

You might think that a substance abuse diversion program would have a relatively short duration of perhaps three to six months, or maybe a year at most, to diagnose, evaluate, and treat the issue before the program releases the nurse. However, HAVEN's website makes clear that HAVEN health contracts may last from six months up to five years. Five years is a very long time. Lots of other things can happen in five years that could make your compliance with a health contract's terms and conditions difficult to impossible. Be wary of agreeing to any health contract of a long duration. Get the advice and assistance of our attorneys before signing any health contract.

Issues with Connecticut Nursing Intervention Deferral

You may already see several substantial issues and problems with Connecticut HAVEN program diversion. Consider the following risks and concerns while ensuring that you have our attorneys' representation before you sign any proposed HAVEN health contract.

Procedural Issues with Connecticut HAVEN Health Contracts

Your first problem is procedural. Even before you retain our representation, disciplinary officials may have referred you to HAVEN, and HAVEN may have proposed a health contract as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. You won't necessarily know the risks the terms and conditions impose. Yet you may feel substantial pressure to consent to the terms and conditions and sign the agreement. Don't give in to that pressure. Retain us to help you evaluate the terms and conditions before you sign anything.

Substantive Issues with Connecticut HAVEN Health Contracts

A second issue you face when presented with a HAVEN health contract is that its terms and conditions may be setting you up for failure rather than success. The contract may require you to do things you cannot readily do or may not be able to do at all. It may require things you don't need and from which you won't benefit. It may also add substantial time, travel, and expense burdens that you suffer in your nursing practice and personal life in other respects. Let us help you evaluate and negotiate for better terms.

Non-Compliance Issues with Connecticut HAVEN Health Contracts

Diversion contracts can also impose so many difficult requirements that your non-compliance at some point, even on a relatively minor term, may be very likely or even inevitable. Yet the health contract may impose one-strike penalties and other automatic or presumptive sanctions when you shouldn't have suffered any sanction at all. Your non-compliance with the health contract may, in the end, become your bigger disciplinary issue when you could instead have faced and defeated the disciplinary charges or negotiated modest remedial measures.

Fighting the Disciplinary Charges in Lieu of a HAVEN Health Contract

You may also find that fighting the disciplinary charges related to your alleged substance abuse is far better than entering into an onerous HAVEN health contract that does little more than set you up for failure. You may not have a substance abuse problem, addiction, or dependency. You may already have addressed and corrected your substance use issues. The disciplinary charges may be false or exaggerated, and we may be able to present exonerating and mitigating evidence that would avoid any sanction. Diversion may seem like the easy route. But in practice, it may not be the easy route. It may instead be a route to failure. Let us help you evaluate and pursue a better course.

Connecticut HAVEN Health Contract Non-Compliance

You should be aware that non-compliance with your Connecticut HAVEN health contract can lead to severe disciplinary sanctions. HAVEN's website warns that state law requires it to notify disciplinary officials at the Department of Public Health if you fail to comply and do not promptly correct your non-compliance. HAVEN also warns that non-compliance can include your failure to appear for a drug test, allegations of diluted drug test specimens, or the presence of unapproved prescription or other drugs in your drug test specimens. HAVEN also warns that your failure to engage in treatments or failure to provide regular log entries documenting your compliance can constitute non-compliance. HAVEN finally warns that “in the event of noncompliance, the Department has absolute discretion to determine … that a professional no longer qualifies for an alternative-to-discipline program.” They get to decide your compliance or non-compliance, not you. And they can be as strict as they wish.

Confidentiality of Connecticut HAVEN Program Participation

Diversion programs like Connecticut's HAVEN program generally advertise that they are confidential in nature. Those representations may lead you to believe that only your HAVEN liaison and the medical professionals who evaluate and treat you will learn of your substance abuse, addiction, and dependency issues. But in fact, HAVEN's website makes clear that many others will learn about your substance abuse issues and related activities, health contract requirements, and mental health or other medical conditions. Confidentiality only means that HAVEN won't place your information in the public domain. HAVEN will, however, share your information with its so-called success team, including “practice liaisons, therapists, primary care providers, and other specialists….” It may also disclose your information in disciplinary proceedings that become a part of a public disciplinary record, even one like those mentioned above, that is readily available online. Your diversion program may not be as confidential as you think. A wide segment of your professional healthcare community may soon learn of your substance abuse issues.

Why You Need Our Attorneys' Advice

Given all of the above risks and concerns of the Connecticut HAVEN substance abuse diversion program, you should not enter into a HAVEN health contract without retaining us for evaluation, review, advice, and other advocacy. Your best course may be to simply challenge the disciplinary allegations. We can help you with that challenge. If your disciplinary matter hasn't yet reached the Board of Examiner officials, we may be able to communicate with the complainant and your employer and colleagues, showing that you don't have a substance abuse issue or have already addressed it so that you present no safety or security risk. If your matter is already before the state disciplinary officials, we may be able to pursue a conciliation conference, where those officials agree to remedial terms that you can readily satisfy. Or we may simply be able to present your exonerating and mitigating evidence to defeat the charges at a due process hearing before an independent administrative law judge. Diversion may not be your best option. Let us help you evaluate and pursue your best course.

Premier Connecticut Nursing License Defense

If you face Connecticut nursing license charges, retain the Lento Law Firm's premier Professional License Defense Team to communicate, negotiate, and advocate with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Board of Examiners for Nursing disciplinary officials who may be recommending HAVEN program diversion. Our attorneys can also help you review, evaluate, and negotiate HAVEN health contract terms and conditions if you find that diversion is your better course. Do not give in to the pressure of time and circumstances. Disciplinary officials should understand and respect your need for skilled legal representation by our premier attorneys. You generally have due process rights to fair notice and a fair hearing before state officials take action against your nursing license.

Don't retain an unqualified local criminal defense attorney or civil litigator. Professional license proceedings are administrative proceedings, not court proceedings. Administrative proceedings have different laws, rules, and regulations. Our premier attorneys know the substantive laws and procedural rules that govern your nursing license disciplinary proceeding. We also know the customs and conventions and the resolution options disciplinary officials are likely to approve and accept. Put our attorneys to work for you for your best outcome to disciplinary charges related to your substance abuse, addiction, and dependency issues. Call 888.535.3686 or complete this contact form now for our skilled and experienced representation.


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