What is HPSP? What Does it Do?

As your representative who sits on the Advisory Board of Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP), it is time again for me to give a little information about this valuable but little known program. It provides monitoring services to health professionals with illnesses that may impact their ability to practice. HPSP promotes public safety in health care by implementing monitoring plans that are related to appropriate illness management and patient safety. A plan may include the participant’s agreement to comply with continuing care recommendations, practice restrictions, random drug screening, and support group participation.

The functions of HPSP include:

1)      Provide health professionals with services to determine if they have an illness that warrants monitoring.
2)      Create and implement monitoring contracts.
3)      Monitor the continuing care and compliance of program participants.
4)      Act as a resource for licensees, licensing boards, health care employers, practitioners, and medical communities.

HPSP has an important role in protecting the public. Examples of how HPSP protects the public include:

  • Employers report licensees for stealing narcotics, appearing intoxicated, appearing manic or psychotic, and/or being unable to function due to brain damage or some other medical condition.
  • Health professional self-report for being terminated or put on leave due to symptoms of mania, psychosis, dementia or other medical disorders, or for termination due to stealing drugs or showing up at work intoxicated.

HPSP intervenes immediately, and does a triage, so the response is case by case.  Response is determined by safety level for the public. HPSP may request that the practitioner refrain from practice pending further evaluation or treatment.

Different health care licensing and professional boards have different practice acts, and are indeed comprised of different professionals and individuals. As such, each licensing board may be seen to have its own personality, and each discipline may have their own set of risk factors to some degree. These risk factors may include access to narcotics (opiates or other schedule substances II through V as regulated by the DEA), or more likely to practice independently. As most of us know, Schedule I substances have no medical usage, and are illegal, and Schedules II through V are in descending order of regulation and risks, as determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists and so forth typically have much more access to these in the course of his/her work. Independent practice, such as many psychologists do, is another independent risk factor. The individual practitioner in whatever licensed field may not have colleagues who would be noticing emotional or behavioral signs of psychological, chemical abuse or dependency, or medical conditions which may be noticed by a colleague or institutional practice as having some impact upon the ability to practice with safety for the public.

Psychology has six active new referrals in 2013, with half having been self referred. Two were referred by a third party, and one was a board referral but not disciplinary in nature. This number has increased for our profession, as it has for most professions. If we look at the data another way, we are the profession who utilizes this service the eighth most out of 17 licensing boards represented, when it is based on utilization per 1,000 regulated persons. Our utilization rate is 1.85, or 7 out of 3,789 regulated licensees. The range is from 0 to 5.10 for the boards.

You can fulfill your own reporting obligations by contacting HPSP rather than the Board of Psychology, with HPSP helping to determine what health care needs may be present or causal for a colleague’s erratic behavior.

If you are interested in learning a great deal more, be sure to attend my educational time at the MPA Annual Convention – April 11 and 12, 2014!

Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D., L.P., owns three Rule 31 chemical dependency co-occurring disorders treatment centers and Northern Integrated Health which includes four physicians and several other psychologists. She holds the APA special certification in alcohol and substance use disorders. Dr. Schlutter has a strong interest in training future psychologists, and so has doctoral students on site.  She is a speaker at many educational events.

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