Health Care Workers with Substance Use Disorder Histories Can Now Seek Ohio Licensure Without Discipline

December 30, 2021Articles

With yet another recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, the need for additional health care practitioners in the state of Ohio continues to grow. Recognizing that this shortage will not be resolved in the near future, the Ohio General Assembly has eliminated another barrier for physicians with a prior history involving a substance use disorder to seek licensure in Ohio.

The State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) has been granted statutory authority to operate what is known as the One-Bite Program, which allows an eligible licensed provider who experiences impairment due to a substance use disorder to avoid formal disciplinary action under certain circumstances. The One-Bite Program establishes confidential monitoring and treatment for practitioners meeting specified eligibility requirements, including that the practitioner have no prior disciplinary action for substance use disorder or impairment by any licensing board in Ohio. Eligibility for the One-Bite Program is determined by the Ohio Physicians Health Program (OPHP), the SMBO-approved monitoring organization responsible for conducting and overseeing the One-Bite Program.

Unfortunately, the SMBO has traditionally restricted the scope of the One-Bite Program to only those licensed practitioners who had previously received an Ohio license. The SMBO’s position was based on the One-Bite Program’s definition of “practitioner,” which was defined as those individuals “authorized to practice . . . medicine and surgery [or] osteopathic medicine and surgery.” As a result, those people who did not already possess an Ohio license prior to their substance use disorder diagnosis could not receive the benefit and protections of the One-Bite Program.

Recognizing that practitioners were being treated differently simply based on the timing of their impairment diagnosis, Ohio Representatives Mark Frazier and Adam Holmes introduced House Bill (HB) 122, which expanded eligibility for the One-Bite Program to applicants in two categories: 1) applicants authorized to practice in another jurisdiction; and 2) applicants who are not authorized to practice in another jurisdiction. HB 122 was passed unanimously by both the Ohio House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine on Dec. 22, 2021.

Applicants authorized to practice in another jurisdiction must currently participate in a confidential treatment and monitoring program in another state or territory and agree to provide the SMBO or OPHP with documentation of their participation in such a program. In addition, the applicant must agree to waive any right to confidentiality that would prevent the SMBO or monitoring organization from sharing information with each other.

On the other hand, an applicant not yet authorized to practice in another jurisdiction, such as someone in medical school, must provide documentation that they have successfully completed a treatment program and any terms of aftercare. The applicant must similarly agree to waive any right to confidentiality so that the SMBO and any monitoring organizations could share information with each other.

Applicants requesting to participate in the One-Bite Program must disclose their prior diagnosis and treatment history in their initial application to practice in Ohio. However, if the applicant does not meet the criteria for entrance into the One-Bite Program, the new statute will allow the SMBO to potentially take public disciplinary action against the applicant. As a result, applicants should consult with experienced legal counsel to ensure that the detailed criteria for the One-Bite Program are satisfied prior to submitting their application to the SMBO.

In addition to physicians, HB 122 authorizes an applicant for licensure practicing as any of the following to participate in the One-Bite Program:

  • Physician assistant,
  • Podiatrist,
  • Limited branch of medicine practitioner,
  • Dietitian,
  • Anesthesiologist assistant,
  • Respiratory care professional,
  • Acupuncturist,
  • Radiologist assistant, and
  • Genetic counselor.

If you have any questions about the impending changes to the One-Bite Program, please contact a member of Dinsmore’s health care practice group.