Gov. Rick Scott recently signed into law House Bill 229 (Ch. 2017-41, Laws of Florida), which made changes to the impaired practitioner program. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) regulates most healthcare professions. Each profession is governed by an individual practice act and by Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, which contains core licensure provisions that apply uniformly across all individual practice acts for healthcare practitioners. Section 456.076, Florida Statutes, established the impaired practitioner program within DOH. The program is designed to assist healthcare practitioners who are impaired as a result of the misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or of a mental or physical condition, which could affect the ability to practice with skill and safety.

The new law revised the program in many respects, but one significant change involved a licensee’s duty to report colleagues that have or are suspected of having an impairment. Currently, if a licensed healthcare practitioner knows that a person is unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety due to an impairment resulting from the use of alcohol or drugs, or due to a physical or mental illness in violation of Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, or the respective practice act, that practitioner is obligated to report such impairment to the appropriate board or DOH, if there is not a board. Failure to report such information may result in discipline for the licensed healthcare practitioner. However, the new law creates an exception to this mandatory reporting to allow a licensee who knows that a person is unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety due to an impairment, to report such information to the consultant, rather than DOH or the applicable regulatory board. Both the core licensure statute and individual practice acts are amended to include this language.