The VRP and its Consequences

A standardized contract with a three-year term similar to requirements outlined by PHMP Board ordered Consent Agreements is utilized. Random Observed Body Screens are used to determine abstinence is being maintained. (We may require urine, serum, blood, saliva, perspiration or hair testing in fulfillment of this requirement.) 

(This Quote is taken from a Pa Licenseing Board website discussing the VRP administered by the PHMP)

In preparation for today’s blog I searched the Internet for comments and questions about Pennsylvania’s various licensing boards’ voluntary recovery programs (“VRP”) and the manner in which they entice professionals with drug or alcohol use issues to enroll in their programs. I found numerous professionals concerned about the arduous process, high cost, and undisclosed lengths of time as a professional they were kept from working. Complaints centered on expensive mandatory in-patient treatment or weekly drug testing protocols, work place monitoring agreements, and an inability to even interview for a job unless approved by capricious and degrading case workers. Each comment concluded with the professional wishing they consulted an attorney prior to enrolling in the program.

The nature and manner VRP case workers “trick” professionals with no criminal record or an ARD to enroll in the program is very creative. Sometimes, the standard letter stating with “It has come to our attention you may be suffering from an impairment” is mailed. Other times threatening and provocative telephone calls unilaterally scheduling appointments occur. Or, the best, case workers demand provisionally licensees show up in Harrisburg to sign unknown documents that can’t be mail. Under each of these circumstances the licensee is scared, possibly losing their job, and not advised of the full scope and breadth of the VRP agreement into which they are almost forced to enter.  They are given ultimatums on times to respond and returned signed documents with no explanation of the long term implications of the legal stipulations they are acknowledging.

The legal problem is licensees do not understand the terms and conditions of the VRP agreement and the legal footing upon which the agreement is based. Sections 63 P. S. 224(a)(2) and (b)(4) allow the Board to refuse, suspend or revoke a license if the licensee “is unable to practice professional nursing with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of … physiological or psychological dependence upon alcohol, hallucinogenic or narcotic drugs or other drugs which tend to impair judgment or coordination, so long as such dependence shall continue.” As part of submitting to treatment, the Board is given the authority under Section 14.1(c) of the Law, 63 P.S. § 224.1(c), to require a licensee as a condition of being allowed to continue to practice to enter a VRP Agreement or face public disciplinary proceedings for his or her impairment.

The significance of these provisions, when read together, is the terms of the statutorily mandated VRP agreement. Every VRP agreement requires the licensing to stipulate among many things that:
1) The Board is authorized to suspend, revoke or otherwise restrict the license under 63 P.S. § 224(a)(2);
2) The licensee is unable to practice the profession with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of illness, addiction to drugs or alcohol, or mental impairment;
3) The disciplinary action is deferred and may ultimately be dismissed pursuant to the impaired professional section of the Law, 63 P.S. § 224.1, provided the licensee progresses satisfactorily in an approved treatment and monitoring program and complies with the terms and conditions of the VRP Agreement .

It doesn’t matter what time or how long after you enter into the VRP program that you object to the terms of the VRP or decide to not perform in accordance with the Agreement. Once the licensee violates the agreement, the Board moves to suspend or revoke the license. The basis for this is simple: The licensee when they entered the VRP stipulated that they are unable to practice due to an impairment, which inability may only be concluded to be over by the VRP case worker. As such, the licensee has given up their entire defense that they are not impaired or a safety risk. Case law says that any expert testimony that the licensee post VRP enrollment is “cured” or not a danger to the community and can practice safely will be found to be not credible.
In cases involving a single DUI or a single positive drug test of any scheduled narcotic for which there is no medicinal basis, entry into the VRP is an acknowledgment that the licensee has a drug addiction or problem.  It is this drug or alcohol problem that must be candidly acknowledged, treated, and for which inpatient and outpatient treatment with drug testing will be required. All costs will be born by the licensee.

If the VRP comes knocking two years after the alleged DUI, which occurred after a family marital event, lets say, and you really have no drug or alcohol issue but the VRP is chosen rather than face “possible” public disciplinary action, the licensee has now stipulated to having a drug addiction for which they are unable to practice safely. Having agreed to this, every VRP licensee is thereafter unable to seek employment, continue their employment, or be hired by a job without the VRP notifying the employer. As well each employer could be required to approve a workplace monitor of the licensee who will report to the VRP case worker. This employment will also be delayed after SATISFACTORILY COMPLETING 30, 60 or 90 days inpatient treatment, which cost will be born by the licensee.

The issues become, why should the VRP be chosen, by whom, and under what circumstances?  If some of the facts discussed above are familiar to you and your case, call me to discuss your options and the agreement being presented to you.  Please understand the legal consequences of entering into the VRP.

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5 Responses to The VRP and its Consequences

  1. Jeff Budrovic says:

    I wish I would have found this site sooner. I was forced into the VRP and I dont think I have any way out of it. Is there anything I can do?

  2. andrea tull says:

    This is happening to me. I didn’t comply so the sent it to their processing attorney. He wrote a letter staying I had to get a mental / physical exam by their doctor in Philly. I actually don’t live in pa I now live in Delaware.

  3. Christopher lamoreaux says:

    I would like to speak with you before I make the decision to fight the evaluation I was given which was to enter the vrp program and attend outpatient treatment. I di not have a problem with drugs or alcohol. I was honest with the state board of nursing about when I got 2 dui’s in one week in 2011, it was after my brother and father passed away due to cancer very close together…i know I dealt with the situation by drinking and also made a poor decision to drive after I had been drinking….im not denying it was a poor decisions, yet after my evaluation at marworth a few weeks later i received a letter in the mail which had the gentleman who evaluated me…stating he had no concerns or issues with the drinking part if my life, however I’ve been on klonopin fir 12 years due to an inherited anxiety attacks…my mother is on klonopin and also my brother…since I was put on this medication 12 years ago…the dosage has never been increased and basically, I went from having anxiety attacks daily to maybe 2 in the last 12 years….there issue is that its mind altering and therefore I would not be able to function as a nurse….also I forgot to mention I graduated nursing school with a 3.65gpa on June 5th to become a lpn…however due to this ridiculous concern for my ability to function as a nurse….the state board of nursing is not allowing me to sit fir the state boards unless I agree to this vrp program……i have no intention of attending this program and pay all the costs associated with it because I’m on a prescribed medication for anxiety….ive been a nurses aide (cna) for the last 15 years in numerous nursing homes and hospitals and at no time was there every been an issue regarding my prescribed medication….with all that said I would like some advice on how to begin to fight the decision from the evaluator and also what my lawyer should be focusing on doing….i will not let these people tell me and the nursing board I have a problem when I emphatically do not have a problem with drugs or alcohol just so this vrp program can make money off me…they will not get any more money from me…they sent me paperwork to sign and return for release of info and other paperwork……i did not sign anything and have no intention of doing so….again I would like info on how to get started on fighting this with my lawyer and I….even the program will not tell me what to do if I choose to fight this….so I would greatly appreciate your help in my situation

    . sincerely,
    . Christopher Lamoreaux

  4. Heather says:

    How do you contact to ask questions prior to sending any paperwork or signing anything need advice if someone will be able to contact me or direct me to the right person. email address acekrull@comcast.net

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