Texas Dentists & The Professional Recovery Network

Although originally intended only for pharmacists, the Professional Recovery Network (“PRN”) now serves as the official peer assistance program for the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. While not part of the Dental Board, the PRN contracts with the Board to provide peer assistance services including monitoring dentist participants and evaluating licensees referred to the program by the board, a member of the public, or the dentist themselves.

Texas dentists can become involved with the PRN through one of two ways. First, a licensee can receive a private, non-board referral. This can come from an employer, family member, colleague, or even be a self-referral. Second, the board may refer a dentist to the PRN through either a private referral or Board Order. If a dentist enters the PRN through a private referral, their participation remains confidential and the PRN is generally not required to report the issues underlying the referral back to the board. In contrast, referral through a Board Order issued by the Board of Dental Examiners is public.

Although it may vary based on a dentist’s specific circumstances, most PRN agreements last for five years. If a dentist enters the PRN based on an alcohol or substance use disorder, they will usually be asked to complete inpatient or outpatient treatment, regularly attend support group meetings, undergo random drug and alcohol testing, participate in periodic PRN functions, and abstain from taking any mind-altering prescription medication without clearance by a physician specializing in addiction medicine. Texas dentists enrolled in the PRN for mental health issues are typically asked to remain under the care of an appropriate mental health professional and follow their recommendations regarding treatment or practice restrictions. In most instances, a participant’s employer is required to know the dentist is in the PRN.

While a large part of the PRN’s mission is to provide assistance to dentists suffering from mental health or substance use disorders, their mandate also includes protecting the public. In practice, this means that the PRN can and will refer dentists to the board if they believe the licensee’s continued practice poses a risk to patient or public safety. Dentists are usually referred by the PRN to the board for possible public disciplinary action for either 1) failure to comply with their PRN agreement, or 2) deciding not to enter an agreement after being referred to the PRN. This fact is often overlooked by dentists privately referred to the PRN but who elect not to sign a PRN contract. To their frequent surprise, this includes dentists who approach the PRN for assistance on their own. A dentist’s continued confidentiality is contingent on entering a PRN participation agreement and staying in compliance.

Most Dental Board cases involving allegations of substance abuse or mental health concerns will result in contact by the PRN while the board’s investigation is still ongoing. In some instances, the dentist may even be approached by the PRN without prior notice of a complaint from the Dental Board. In large part, the board relies on the PRN to evaluate dentists and provide early intervention and monitoring if appropriate.

First contact with the PRN is a crucial part of a dentist’s case as the PRN’s standard process includes an in-depth intake interview asking questions about the dentist’s individual and family medical history, use of alcohol and other substances, prescription medications, past receipt of mental health counseling or therapy, and other matters potentially prejudicial to the licensee. The PRN will oftentimes ask that the dentist receive an evaluation with a PRN-approved expert. This is also critical as a poor evaluation could cause irreparable damage to a dentist’s case.

Contact a Texas Dental License Defense Lawyer

Any Texas dentist contacted by the PRN should consult with an attorney regarding their situation and possible options. Waiting to speak to an attorney until later can be highly prejudicial to a case’s ultimate outcome. At the Leichter Law Firm PC, our licensing attorneys have substantial experience representing clients before the Professional Recovery Network and Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. We understand the PRN and Dental Board process and know how to effectively defend a dentist to maximize chance for a positive result. Call us today to learn more at 512.495.9995.

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