Acquiring a license and/or certification as a substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor in Pennsylvania represents a significant investment in your career. After years of education and many hours of field experience, you've finally achieved a fulfilling career helping others.
However, a single complaint against your license can jeopardize everything.
Your license and certification are essential to your livelihood, and they are, in a sense, your most valuable assets. A solitary accusation of misconduct can throw your future into uncertainty. The Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors take all complaints seriously and can revoke your license based on a preponderance of evidence. Likewise, if you've been certified as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC or CAADC) by the Pennsylvania Certification Board, that certification can be at risk if you're accusing their Code of Ethics.
The best way to avoid these negative outcomes is to hire a seasoned Pennsylvania license defense attorney at the first hint of trouble. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his License Defense Team have extensive experience defending licensed professionals against allegations of misconduct in Pennsylvania. They understand the workings of the Pennsylvania licensing boards and will strive to help you achieve the most favorable outcomes. Reach out to the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to explore your options.
What Types of Accusations Might Lead to the Loss of My License or Certification?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has established rigid standards of professionalism and conduct for licensed and certified counselors. Most revocations result from violations of these standards or other breaches of public trust. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Substance abuse: As a substance abuse counselor, having your own active addiction to drugs or alcohol would disqualify you from assisting others in this area. It also calls into question your ability to take care of patients competently.
- Sexual misconduct: Engaging in sexual relationships with patients/clients, sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, or unwelcome sexual advances can all lead to license revocation.
- Dual relationships: Additional relationships with clients beyond a counselor role, such as financial or familial connections, are considered unethical and may result in license loss.
- Fraud: Overbilling or up-coding insurance claims, overcharging clients, etc., are examples of fraud that can result in loss of your license and/or certification.
- Record-keeping/confidentiality violations: Failing to maintain counselor-client confidentiality or improper handling of records and client information, whether intentional or not, can endanger your license.
- Acting outside your qualifications: Offering therapy or treatment beyond the scope of your license or certification may result in the loss of either/both.
Pennsylvania's License Disciplinary Process
Pennsylvania has a streamlined complaint filing process where members of the public can file complaints against licensed professionals in the state--including substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) manages and investigates all complaints, which can be filed by anyone, but which typically come from patients, former patients, coworkers, other practitioners, and occasionally insurance companies. Once a complaint is filed with the BPOA, the process proceeds as follows:
The BPOA assigns a Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) investigator to examine the complaint. You may be asked to provide a written response. The investigator interviews the complainant and any witnesses and gathers relevant documents. If there is insufficient evidence to support the complaint, the case is closed; otherwise, it advances to the next stage.
If the evidence against you is strong, the Board may propose a consent agreement as an alternative to a formal hearing. This is a legally binding agreement in which you voluntarily accept the disciplinary action determined by the Board. Consent agreements are not always the best option, but a skilled attorney can negotiate terms within them that allow you to retain your license or at least provide a path toward reinstatement. (Do not sign a consent agreement without consulting an attorney.)
If no consent agreement is reached or offered, you will be summoned to a formal hearing before a state examiner where you must show cause why your license should not be revoked. Having official legal representation is highly recommended at this stage. The Board then makes a final decision on disciplinary actions, ranging from a formal reprimand to license suspension or revocation.
Why Hire a Pennsylvania License Defense Attorney?
In Pennsylvania license defense cases, there is no presumption of innocence when you're accused of wrongdoing. The state licensing and certification boards act more like prosecutors than judges because their primary responsibility is to protect the public, not their licensees. Consequently, when they receive a complaint, they actively seek evidence against you and require only a low burden of proof to determine if disciplinary action is warranted. This puts you at a disadvantage from the moment a complaint is filed.
Engaging an attorney who is familiar with the Pennsylvania licensing process and knows how to defend against misconduct allegations can greatly increase your chances of retaining your license and career. Your attorney can investigate the complaint, help gather evidence to counter it, prepare you for questioning by investigators or during a hearing, and negotiate with the BPOA and the Board for the best possible resolution. This could involve seeking to have them agree to lesser penalties or seeking a complete dismissal of the complaint.
If you are a Pennsylvania substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor accused of misconduct, it is vital not to navigate the disciplinary process alone. Your livelihood is at stake, and facing the process without legal representation may result in severe consequences. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can help you obtain a favorable resolution and save your career. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or use our online form.