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Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, PRN, and Multiple Alcohol-Related Criminal Offenses

Posted May 12 2010 9:23am

 

Since the Texas State Legislature’s previous legislative session, the Texas Dental Board has begun dramatically ramping up enforcement actions against dentists, oral surgeons, dental hygienists, and other professionals licensed under its auspices. Of particular concern for many dental licensees is the Dental Board’s increased enforcement of their rules regarding DWIs and other alcohol-related offenses. Like other medical licensing boards, the Dental Board typically does not regard a one-time, isolated alcohol-related offense as the basis for disciplinary action absent special circumstances or evidence of an ongoing impairment or addiction. However, upon receiving notice that a dentist or oral surgeon has been arrested, convicted, or placed on deferred adjudication for a second such offense- whether a 2nd DWI, Public Intoxication charge, or Open Container violation- the Board will begin actively investigating and pursuing sanctions against the individual in question, often including the imposition of restrictive multi-year monitoring orders. Importantly, this is true regardless of the amount of time that has passed between the two offenses, which in some cases can be a decade or more.

One step that the Texas Dental Board will often take in the case of a dentist, oral surgeon, or other licensee with multiple alcohol related offenses is to recommend consultation with the Professional Recovery Network (PRN), the Board’s peer assistance program. I emphatically recommend not doing so without first consulting with an attorney. This is because, as I have written previously in this forum, there are significant limitations in the confidentiality protections provided to dental and pharmacist professionals who consult with PRN. Not only that, but professionals seeking aid from the PRN are often not completely informed of these confidentiality limitations up front, with the result that statements that the professional believed were confidential often end up being reported to the Dental Board. This means that, by turning to the PRN either as a self-referral or by specific request of the Dental Board, a professional may end up inadvertently handing the Board statements or evidence that may be used against him or her in an eventual disciplinary proceeding. As such, it is essential for licensed dental professionals to consult with an attorney familiar with administrative law and the practices of the Dental Board and PRN to determine the best course of action and ensure that potentially damaging information is not accidentally volunteered to the Board.

This increase in enforcement by the Texas Dental Board has a number of ramifications for professionals licensed by the Board. First, the Board has begun aggressively pursuing harsher sanctions than in previous years, even for comparatively minor offenses. For instance, as I noted in a previous entry, in one case, the Board sought to impose a multi-year reprimand based on a comparatively minor misdemeanor for which the dentist in question was placed on deferred adjudication. Secondly, should the professional in question agree to any discipline, they will potentially be required to report it to their provider networks, malpractice insurers, other credentialing bodies or states where they hold licenses, and the Department of Public Safety and DEA.

This makes it all the more important that a professional under investigation by the Texas Dental Board consult with an attorney to best protect their interests and their practice.

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