Nursing and Substance Abuse - New Mexico

Among those who have struggled with substance abuse challenges, it is often observed that recovery is a journey, not a destination. For better and for worse, journeys tend to be defined by both ups and downs. If you are dealing with substance abuse issues and you're in a “down” phase of your journey, know that there are resources available that can help, and know that you aren't alone.

Substance abuse issues can feel very isolating. It can be easy to feel like you're the only one who is struggling in the ways that you currently are. It can, therefore, be helpful to know that in 2022, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimated that 48.7 million tweens, teens, and adults in the U.S. were wrestling with substance abuse challenges. Thanks in no small part to the profound stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic forced upon the nation's healthcare system, a significant number of those navigating the ups and downs of substance abuse recovery journeys were nurses. Therefore, if you are working as a nurse in New Mexico and your substance abuse issues are potentially threatening the stability and integrity of your career, you are certainly not alone.

Perhaps your struggles have been reported to the New Mexico Board of Nursing, or perhaps you're concerned that a colleague, patient, or employer might make such a report soon. If the Board expresses concern about your ability to properly discharge your professional duties, you could face discipline and even the loss of your license. Thankfully, whether you need to react to a report that has already been made or you're hoping to proactively manage the risk of that occurring, there is a Board-run program, that you may be eligible for, which serves as an alternative to formal disciplinary action in this regard.

The Board's Diversion Program is a great opportunity for some and not a great fit for others. As such, it's important to carefully evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks of participating in this program before committing to a plan of action. By speaking with the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team about your circumstances, you can benefit from personalized feedback that will allow you to make an informed decision about your rights and options. With your health, career, and well-being on the line, there is simply too much at stake to chart a path forward without proper support. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or schedule a consultation online to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you.

New Mexico Nurse Regulatory Body

Every state has created a licensing board that oversees the practice and profession of nursing within that jurisdiction. The New Mexico Board of Nursing (NMBN) is the governing body that oversees nursing professionals who work in – and those who aspire to work in – the Land of Enchantment. The board also licenses lactation care providers and certifies medication aides and hemodialysis technicians. In addition to licensing and certification authority, the Board also broadly regulates the practice of nursing within the state. In the event that the Board receives a complaint about a nursing professional, it is responsible for investigating the validity of the claims at issue and, if necessary, disciplining any licensee or certificate holder who is found to be in violation of the state's nursing laws and rules.

In all, the NMBN is made up of seven members, each of whom is appointed by the governor. Of these members, four are licensed nurses, and three are representatives of the public. The NMBN describes its primary purpose as “Protect(ing) the public safety through effective regulation of nursing care and services.”

Investigating and taking action against nursing professionals whose capacity to render safe and effective care has been compromised by substance abuse concerns is a logical exercise of this broader purpose. However, unlike criminal investigations, which generally end in punishment-based responses to wrongdoing, the Board's intention is not always to punish nurses who have violated their professional responsibilities. While it is true that some disciplinary scenarios end in reprimand, probation, license suspension, or even license revocation, many matters rooted in substance abuse concerns do not. The Board also offers a Diversion Program as an alternative-to-discipline option for eligible nursing professionals whose violations of state law or Board standards have occurred primarily due to substance abuse or dependency.

New Mexico Nursing Laws and Regulations

Just as every state is empowered to delegate authority to regulate the practice and profession of nursing to a licensing board, which can exercise that authority in a variety of ways, every state has passed laws that form the foundation of a Board's purpose and obligations. These laws also form the foundation of the legal, ethical, and practical rights and responsibilities of a particular state's nurses. In New Mexico, this foundational law is referred to as the New Mexico Nursing Practice Act.

The NMBN has adopted the rules outlined in Chapter 61, Article 3 of the New Mexico Statutes Annotated (NMSA) and expanded upon them. Board standards and regulations essentially have the effect of law as a result of the Board's authority. Therefore, nurses can be disciplined for violating the Nursing Practice Act and/or standards enacted by the NMBN.

Notification of Substance Abuse to the New Mexico Board of Nursing

There are two primary ways that the Board could be notified of a nurse's challenges with substance abuse or dependency. First, the nurse can self-report. Alternatively, a complaint may be filed with the Board by any number of actors. Fellow nurses, for example, are required to report substance abuse issues unless the chemically dependent nurse in question is a patient, and the rules of confidentiality apply to a situation by nurses helping to provide their care. In addition to mandatory reporting scenarios, employers, healthcare colleagues, a patient, the loved ones of a patient, or even a seemingly random member of the public could file a complaint with the Board, alleging substance challenges that impair a nurse's professional competency. Under these circumstances, a complaint could be warranted or it could be filed as a result of a misunderstanding or malicious intent.

Unless the Board is notified of a nurse's alleged challenges via self-reporting and a request to participate in the Board's alternative-to-discipline program, it is compelled to investigate the validity of the claim. Depending on the results of an investigation, the Board may dismiss a case for lack of sufficient compelling evidence, encourage a nurse to participate in the state's Diversion Program proactively before a formal disciplinary action begins, or commence a disciplinary action that will include a hearing related to the matter at issue.

If your challenges – or inaccurately alleged challenges – have already been brought to the attention of the Board, it is time to seek personalized legal guidance. Making this effort as soon as you can will help to ensure that your rights and interests are protected as you move forward.

Alternatively, if the Board is not yet aware that you struggle with substance abuse or dependency, but you're concerned that it is only a matter of time before someone reports their suspicions or you make a mistake that could compromise your patients' safety, it may be advantageous to self-report your challenges. Self-reporting is an effort to seek help made in good faith. In honor of this good-faith effort, the NMBN directly refers nursing professionals who self-report to the Diversion Program. This automatic show of support is not the kind of “benefit of the doubt” approach embraced by every state licensing board. In many states, those nurses who self-report are often still at risk of being formally disciplined. This is not the case in New Mexico. As a result, if you do struggle with substance abuse or dependency and need help, self-reporting is an option worthy of careful consideration.

Eligibility for the New Mexico Board of Nursing's Diversion Program for Substance Abuse

Eligibility for the New Mexico Board of Nursing's Diversion Program is automatic for nursing professionals who self-refer and request admission to the program. The request must be made in writing, and it must contain an admission that the applicant is chemically dependent. A self-referral request of this kind should be sent to the Diversion Program's Director of Compliance.

In the event that the Board is notified of a nurse's challenges via a complaint filed with the body, however, eligibility becomes a more complicated issue. Essentially, a nurse may request admission to the program after the Board receives a complaint about their professional competency, or they may be encouraged to participate in it by the Board. If a nurse is not encouraged to participate in the program but instead requests admission in the wake of a complaint, it is up to the Board's discretion to grant this request or not.

Finally, if the Board takes formal disciplinary action against a nurse and their license, that nurse may still request admission to the program even if the outcome of their disciplinary process is unfavorable. This request may be made either in the wake of an unfavorable finding before discipline has been formalized or as a condition of the nurse's license reinstatement following either a suspension or revocation. In all, a request to participate in the Diversion Program may be made at virtually any time. It is simply that the timing of a nurse's request will impact whether permission to participate will be granted and, if so, under what conditions.

What Are the Requirements of the NMBN's Diversion Program?

Once a nurse has either been automatically approved for participation in the Diversion Program – following a self-referral and proper notice, as discussed above – or has been approved for participation by the Board at some point after a complaint has been filed, they must successfully complete the requirements of the program. A failure to successfully meet the program's requirements will almost certainly result in either the commencement of traditional disciplinary action or reversion to disciplinary consequences outlined by the Board prior to the start of the nurse's participation. Either of these courses of action could end in a nurse's license being suspended or revoked.

Before a participant in the Diversion Program can formally start their participation, they must sign a “no-use” contract. This agreement states that nurse participants will refrain from using alcohol, illicit substances, and prescription drugs (unless used, as directed, under the supervision of a legitimate prescribing physician for necessary purposes) for the duration of their participation in the program. A failure to uphold the terms of the contract could lead to suspension or termination from the program.

Additionally, to succeed as a participant in the Diversion Program, a nurse must actively participate in treatment for their substance use disorder. This treatment must include peer support meetings and random screenings for substance use.

Each nurse's treatment plan is personalized, but it will include work-related restrictions of some kind. Nurses may experience a temporary suspension of their licenses and/or work permission, subject to conditions and/or oversight. If you opt to participate in this program, it's going to be important to understand the work-related restrictions that you'll be subject to before commencing treatment. Otherwise, you won't be able to respond proactively to how this situation will impact your finances and employment situation.

Finally, nurse participants will be impacted by monthly reports, quarterly meetings, and the restriction of a single-state New Mexico license. While this last condition of participation may not impact nurses who practice exclusively at in-state facilities, it may be very consequential for those who engage in travel opportunities. This is just one of the many reasons why it's important to carefully consider the practical impacts of participation in the Diversion Program before committing to this option. While it may be helpful and even potentially life-saving, for some, it isn't the best option for every nurse who struggles with substance abuse.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Participating in the NMBN's Diversion Program?

There are definite advantages to participating in the Diversion Program if you're a nurse practicing in New Mexico who is currently struggling with chemical dependency. However, there are also drawbacks to participation that you'll want to consider carefully before opting to self-report or request participation at some point after the Board has received a complaint about your professional competency. Know that you don't have to weigh the potential pros and cons of participation on your own. When you meet with the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team, we can assess the potential value of this opportunity in a personalized way that will empower you to make a truly informed decision about your options. The following observations are a few general points that you may want to mull over before meeting with our team.


If you need help with a substance abuse disorder, the Diversion Program can be a good way to pursue and receive that help. The aims of the program are both to treat your disorder in a way that takes the unique stresses of your job into account and to safeguard the long-term integrity of your nursing license along the way. The Board doesn't automatically treat any other kind of nursing violation in the ways that it does when substance abuse is at the root of the problem. This is because the Board recognizes that substance abuse is a medical issue deserving of treatment. Participating in this program can give you the opportunity to benefit from treatment. And, if you haven't yet unintentionally hurt a patient as a result of your challenges, participating in the program can help you avoid that kind of misstep that can lead to grief, regret, and possibly even criminal charges.

Additionally, avoiding formal discipline is not an insignificant benefit of participation. Successful participation in the Diversion Program is a confidential opportunity. But, if you are formally disciplined by the Board, that turn of events is a matter of public record. As a result, if you ever want to advance in the nursing profession or ever want to seek a new job opportunity, your disciplinary record could hold you back from achieving those goals. Participating successfully in the Diversion Program will eliminate that risk.

Finally, if you are the type of person who does best when you're being held accountable for accomplishing your goals, you'll want to consider that this program can give you the kind of push you may need to put your health, career, and well-being first in a consistent and sustainable way.


While accountability is a benefit to some personality types, others don't do well when too many people in positions of authority are looking over their shoulder. If you haven't yet been reported to the Board and too much oversight could do you more harm than good, you may want to explore recovery options that are better suited to your unique needs.

Additionally, if you are in a position to either seek alternative forms of recovery because you haven't yet been reported, or it is likely that you could successfully weather the investigation process with no more than a reprimand, you may want to avoid the work-related restrictions that are associated with participation in Diversion. This may be especially true if you work in a traveling position or along the border and you maintain licensure in multiple jurisdictions as a result.

The financial consequences of participation are also nothing to sneeze at. Work restrictions aside, the costs of treatment and random drug screenings for a significant period of time can add up quickly. As a result, it's going to be important to speak with our team about what costs you can expect to be on the hook for in the event that you opt to participate. If you're in a position to seek less costly rehabilitation in another way, this is a factor that may need to play into your decision-making process.

Are There Any Alternatives to the Diversion Program That Can Preserve My Nursing License?

Participation in the Diversion Program is voluntary. If you do not choose to self-report and no complaint has been filed against you, you can opt to pursue recovery – which you'll want to do if you're struggling with substance abuse. Otherwise, you'll keep risking your license – in a way that works for you. But, even if a complaint has been filed against you, participating in this program is still a voluntary situation. Also, New Mexico's Board of Nursing is unusually generous in offering nurses the ability to request participation in this confidential program long after a complaint has been filed. This means you may choose to voluntarily seek Diversion if an investigation and/or disciplinary process doesn't go your way.

As such, it's important to keep in mind that you do have the option of pushing back against any complaint that has been filed with the Board against you. The allegations against you may not have merit, or they may not be supported by evidence. And even if there are some valid concerns expressed in the complaint, you may be in a position to benefit from “rolling the dice” based on the strength of your defense. Your Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense lawyer will do their utmost to protect your rights and preserve your license if you opt to push back instead of opting for proactive Diversion participation.

Retain the Lento Law Firm Today

You spent years in school and have likely spent years developing your career path. Whether a complaint has been filed with the Board that is baseless or you're struggling with substance abuse, you deserve personalized legal assistance designed to facilitate your health, career, and well-being. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team practices nationwide, so we can help you to assess and navigate your options, whether you're currently residing in New Mexico or you're working elsewhere while using your New Mexico license in a traveling position or multijurisdictional capacity. We can fight for you just as we have so many other New Mexico nurses. You don't need to manage your legal circumstances alone. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you.


Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are committed to answering your questions about Physician License Defense, Nursing License Defense, Pharmacist License Defense, Psychologist and Psychiatrist License Defense, Dental License Defense, Chiropractic License Defense, Real Estate License Defense, Professional Counseling License Defense, and Other Professional Licenses law issues nationwide.
The Lento Law Firm will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.