Drugs and alcohol can ruin people’s lives, and as an LADC (licensed alcohol and drug counselor), you are in a position to help people beat their addictions and get a fresh start. However, as is the case in any healthcare or mental health profession, complaints do happen. At times, the stress placed upon healthcare professionals by the bureaucratic corporate systems they work for is substantial, and complaints only add to that ever-growing burden.
If you have had a complaint filed against you by a client, client’s family member, co-worker, or anyone else concerned about your practice, you already know that your hard-earned career is at risk. You must take action to protect yourself and give yourself the best possible chance at avoiding discipline and keeping your license. That is where we can help. Forshier Law, LLC focuses exclusively on the needs of healthcare professionals who are under investigation by their licensing board. To schedule your free phone consultation, contact us today.
The Stress of Your Job Puts You At Risk
As a LADC, you are under constant pressure. You may work with clients who are going through withdrawal, struggling with the consequences of their drug or alcohol use, or in a downward spiral. Depending on your clients’ habits and motivation, you may even have to watch them go through the same process multiple times. At times, you may be the target of clients’ aggressive outbursts or verbal abuse. No matter how hard you work to maintain professional boundaries and avoid personalizing your clients’ needs, it is almost inevitable that you will lose sleep worrying about your clients’ well-being and health.
When you consider the fact that LADCs face these stressors day in and day out, it is no surprise that they are at risk of serious mental health issues, using unhealthy coping strategies, and otherwise endangering their own health and ability to work. Unfortunately, mental health professionals do not always get the support they need from their licensing board, and may instead be disciplined for their own struggles.
Complaints Can Change the Future of Your Career
It is crucial that you not underestimate the severity of a complaint to the Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy. If the investigation goes well, the complaint may be dismissed and the file closed. If the complaints is found to have merit, though, you could face a multitude of disciplinary actions. According to Minnesota statutes, the Board may choose to take any of the following actions in response to unethical or illegal behavior:
- Refusal to grant or renew your license
- License revocation
- License suspension
- License limitations that may restrict your area of practice, require further training, require supervised practice, or involve further testing
- Reprimand or censure
- Civil penalties as high as $10,000 per violation
Minnesota statutes also outline unethical behavior that may lead to disciplinary action. While this is not an inclusive list, examples include:
- Fraudulent or unprofessional conduct
- Felony or gross misdemeanor related to counseling services or that demonstrates a licensee’s inability to practice competently
- Fraud in obtaining or renewing a license
- Failure to meet requirements for licensure
- Failure to cooperate with Board investigation
- Ability to practice impacted by illness, use of alcohol or drugs, or a mental or physical condition
- Sexual conduct with a client or behavior that may be perceived as sexual
- Failure to provide health records upon client request
- Fee splitting
- Fraudulent billing practices
Disciplinary action can affect your career and future in numerous ways. First, any disciplinary action taken is publicly recorded and viewable on the Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy website. Potential clients may come across this information and choose to use another counselor’s services. Your clinic may choose to reduce your hours, limit your practice, or let you go entirely, worried about the liability that may come with employing a disciplined practitioner. Possible employers will come across the disciplinary action while determining whether or not to hire you, which may limit your career growth options. If the worst happens and you completely lose your license, you have little chance of ever practicing again in another state.
Complaint Process in Minnesota
The Complaint Resolution Process is outlined by the Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy (BBHT). Note that the Board can dismiss the case or close the file at any step of the process if the complaint is invalid or if there is insufficient evidence. After the complaint is made, the following process begins:
- The executive director passes the complaint directly to the investigation process or to the Complaint Resolution Committee for review
- The Complaint Resolution Committee looks documents and staff reports and schedules a time for the licensee to appear before the CRC
- The CRC and licensee may agree on corrective action or the matter goes to a contested case hearing
- A stipulation and order is made
- Complaint ultimately results in a disciplinary order or dismissal
The earlier you retain an attorney during this process, the better prepared you are for every step that follows. Your attorney can use their experience with licensing boards to assess the evidence against you, determine what actions they may take, and advocate on your behalf.
What to Do to Protect Your Career
As soon as you know a complaint has been made against you, reach out to a license defense attorney in Minnesota. This limits your stress and prevents you from unintentional missteps that could drag out your case or weaken your defense.
You’ve worked hard to earn your LADC certification, and it’s hard to imagine that one complaint could end your career. Don’t panic yet—with the help of a skilled and experienced attorney, you may be able to avoid disciplinary action, keep your license, and continue making a difference in your clients’ lives. If you are ready to get started, we are here to help. Reach out to Forshier Law, LLC to discuss your case and plan your next step. Contact us online or call to schedule your free consultation.