Health Professionals Service Program

The Health Professionals Service Program (HPSP) is designed to protect the public, as well as to help licensed health care professionals practice safely.  Conditions that may be eligible include physical health conditions, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders or combinations thereof.

What do you, as a psychologist need to know?  If you are concerned about a colleague who is not acting like themselves, is struggling either suddenly or having an episodic set of performance difficulties at work with technical items, impaired clinical decision making, or poor impulse control, you may be interested in engaging with the HPSP.  These performance difficulties are of more concern especially paired with tardiness, erratic behaviors of other types, or perhaps charting, email or phone messages that are of great concern.  You could fulfill your ethical obligation, if you decide you need to make a report, by reporting that professional to HPSP rather than to the licensing board of that professional.  If said behavior is due to a health condition and HPSP has jurisdiction, this could allow the person to get evaluation, proper treatment for whatever condition or conditions are present, and the monitoring necessary to ensure safe practice.  If HPSP has to turn the person or case over to the proper board, they surely will; however, it helps with proper triage of conditions to allow HPSP to provide this very important service.

Just as the public would not want a dentist, for example, to be practicing with a serious hand tremor which could impact where Novocaine or drilling occurred, specific licensed health care professions have some special needs and risks.  We as the public expect to have professionals who are in reasonable health, or ones who are doing what they need to be doing to address the health concerns that may arise.  Professionals such as nurses, pharmacists, and physicians have higher risk factors with certain medication access, in that as a job requirement many times they are in close contact with and utilizing such substances daily.  Of course, everyone has access to alcohol, any street drugs, or the possibility of misuse of medication (that was prescribed for one person or condition but used for another or by another, higher dosages than directed, and so forth).

What happens?  Well, you could check out the HPSP website which has sections for how to make a report, as well as information for quarterly reports for treatment professionals and for the work site monitor.  People have individualized assessments by professionals in whichever field, and to retain a professional license may choose to be monitored by HPSP for some period of time to ensure safe practice.  Boards may refer people to HPSP, people may be referred by others, or individuals may self-refer.

Lois Cochrane Schlutter, PhD, LP, CCDPD has been MPA’s representative to the HPSP Advisory Board for a number of years.  She has credentials in two of the three areas, and considers it a great honor to serve psychology and MPA.  Dr. Schlutter has APA special certification in alcohol and substance use disorders, as well as a co-occurring chemical dependency professional diplomate certification. Additionally, she owns businesses, practices, and supervises in these areas.

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