(1) In lieu of disciplinary action under RCW 18.130.160
and if the disciplining authority determines that the unprofessional conduct may be the result of substance abuse, the disciplining authority may refer the license holder to a voluntary substance abuse monitoring program approved by the disciplining authority.
The cost of the treatment shall be the responsibility of the license holder, but the responsibility does not preclude payment by an employer, existing insurance coverage, or other sources. Primary alcoholism or other drug addiction treatment shall be provided by approved treatment programs under *RCW 70.96A.020
or by any other provider approved by the entity or the commission. However, nothing shall prohibit the disciplining authority from approving additional services and programs as an adjunct to primary alcoholism or other drug addiction treatment. The disciplining authority may also approve the use of out-of-state programs. Referral of the license holder to the program shall be done only with the consent of the license holder. Referral to the program may also include probationary conditions for a designated period of time. If the license holder does not consent to be referred to the program or does not successfully complete the program, the disciplining authority may take appropriate action under RCW 18.130.160
which includes suspension of the license unless or until the disciplining authority, in consultation with the director of the voluntary substance abuse monitoring program, determines the license holder is able to practice safely. The secretary shall adopt uniform rules for the evaluation by the disciplinary [disciplining] authority of a relapse or program violation on the part of a license holder in the substance abuse monitoring program. The evaluation shall encourage program participation with additional conditions, in lieu of disciplinary action, when the disciplinary [disciplining] authority determines that the license holder is able to continue to practice with reasonable skill and safety.
(2) In addition to approving substance abuse monitoring programs that may receive referrals from the disciplining authority, the disciplining authority may establish by rule requirements for participation of license holders who are not being investigated or monitored by the disciplining authority for substance abuse. License holders voluntarily participating in the approved programs without being referred by the disciplining authority shall not be subject to disciplinary action under RCW 18.130.160
for their substance abuse, and shall not have their participation made known to the disciplining authority, if they meet the requirements of this section and the program in which they are participating.
(3) The license holder shall sign a waiver allowing the program to release information to the disciplining authority if the licensee does not comply with the requirements of this section or is unable to practice with reasonable skill or safety. The substance abuse program shall report to the disciplining authority any license holder who fails to comply with the requirements of this section or the program or who, in the opinion of the program, is unable to practice with reasonable skill or safety. License holders shall report to the disciplining authority if they fail to comply with this section or do not complete the program’s requirements. License holders may, upon the agreement of the program and disciplining authority, reenter the program if they have previously failed to comply with this section.
(4) The treatment and pretreatment records of license holders referred to or voluntarily participating in approved programs shall be confidential, shall be exempt from chapter42.56
RCW, and shall not be subject to discovery by subpoena or admissible as evidence except for monitoring records reported to the disciplining authority for cause as defined in subsection (3) of this section. Monitoring records relating to license holders referred to the program by the disciplining authority or relating to license holders reported to the disciplining authority by the program for cause, shall be released to the disciplining authority at the request of the disciplining authority. Records held by the disciplining authority under this section shall be exempt from chapter 42.56
RCW and shall not be subject to discovery by subpoena except by the license holder.
(5) “Substance abuse,” as used in this section, means the impairment, as determined by the disciplining authority, of a license holder’s professional services by an addiction to, a dependency on, or the use of alcohol, legend drugs, or controlled substances.
(6) This section does not affect an employer’s right or ability to make employment-related decisions regarding a license holder. This section does not restrict the authority of the disciplining authority to take disciplinary action for any other unprofessional conduct.
(7) A person who, in good faith, reports information or takes action in connection with this section is immune from civil liability for reporting information or taking the action.
(a) The immunity from civil liability provided by this section shall be liberally construed to accomplish the purposes of this section and the persons entitled to immunity shall include:
(i) An approved monitoring treatment program;
(ii) The professional association operating the program;
(iii) Members, employees, or agents of the program or association;
(iv) Persons reporting a license holder as being possibly impaired or providing information about the license holder’s impairment; and
(v) Professionals supervising or monitoring the course of the impaired license holder’s treatment or rehabilitation.
(b) The courts are strongly encouraged to impose sanctions on clients and their attorneys whose allegations under this subsection are not made in good faith and are without either reasonable objective, substantive grounds, or both.
(c) The immunity provided in this section is in addition to any other immunity provided by law.
*Reviser’s note: RCW 70.96A.020
was repealed by 2016 sp.s. c 29 § 301, effective April 1, 2018.
Effective date—2006 c 99 § 7: “Section 7 of this act takes effect July 1, 2006.” [ 2006 c 99 § 11.
Finding—Intent—Severability—1998 c 132: See notes following RCW 18.71.0195
Legislative intent—1988 c 247: “Existing law does not provide for a program for rehabilitation of health professionals whose competency may be impaired due to the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
It is the intent of the legislature that the disciplining authorities seek ways to identify and support the rehabilitation of health professionals whose practice or competency may be impaired due to the abuse of drugs or alcohol. The legislature intends that such health professionals be treated so that they can return to or continue to practice their profession in a way which safeguards the public. The legislature specifically intends that the disciplining authorities establish an alternative program to the traditional administrative proceedings against such health professionals.” [ 1988 c 247 § 1.