Mental Health Professionals
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is a massive agency that houses many regulatory divisions and professional boards, ranging from Athletic Trainers to X-ray Services. DSHS’s mission statement is similarly broad — “To improve the health and well-being of Texas.”
If a licensee is contacted by their licensing Board regarding any disciplinary matter, seemingly large or small, we recommend that you take advantage of a free consultation from the Professional License Defense Attorneys of the Leichter Law Firm PC to determine whether you would benefit from experienced counsel. As DSHS’s mission statement makes clear, the health of Texas is the primary concern of this agency, not the well-being of its licensees. Any agency investigation is adversarial at its heart, and consequently any communication between licensees and Board staff could, and often is, used against the licensee. The utmost care should be taken with any response to a request for information from a licensing Board, which is why many licensees choose to hire experienced counsel to communicate on their behalf.
The Administrative Law attorneys at the Leichter Law Firm PC are experienced in the arena of professional license defense and regularly appear before Administrative Boards that full under DSHS in the service of their professional licensee clients. Leichter Law Firm PC attorneys currently represent licensees of such Boards as the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors, the Texas Board of Examiners of Social Workers, among others.
Each Professional Board under DSHS has their own operating statutes passed by the Legislature and their own Board rules, promulgated by their respective Boards.
The Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors’ statutes are found at Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 503, and their rules and regulations are found at Title 22, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 681.
When the Professional Board believes that a licensee has engaged in conduct prohibited by these statutes and rules, an investigation is initiated and the licensee is given the due process afforded them under these same statutes. The types of conduct typically investigated range from relatively minor alleged violations to those that are much more serious.
- Maintaining a Dual Relationship
- Sexual Misconduct
- Criminal Conduct
- Impairment Due to Chemical Dependency or Mental Health
- Fraudulent Billing
- Failure to Keep Accurate Client Records
- Violations Related to Supervision Hours
- Release of Confidential Client Information
- Practicing on an Expired License
- Unethical/Unprofessional Conduct
- Failure to Cooperate with Board
- Discipline in Another Jurisdiction
- Failure to Report Physical or Sexual Abuse
Initiation of Complaint
Board investigations are initiated upon the Board’s receipt of a complaint from a client, law enforcement, third party, or sometimes even an anonymous source. The Executive Director of the Board will facilitate review and consideration of each complaint, which includes determining that it is jurisdictional and that it alleges something that is actually a violation of the statutes. If the complaint is deemed jurisdictional, the Executive Director will often notify the licensee that a complaint has been filed against them, and give the opportunity for the licensee to make a response. The licensee is also asked to provide client records and other relevant information.
The Board’s investigative staff will collect and compile all of the information received about each complaint and use it to prepare an investigative summary about the case. The Executive Director then sends the case to be reviewed by the Ethics Committee.
Ethics Committee Review
The Ethics Committee is appointed by the Board chair and is tasked with reviewing each complaint, ensuring that complaints are given due consideration, ensuring that the complainant is given an opportunity to explain their allegations, and ultimately dismissing complaints that do not warrant action.
The Ethics Committee meets at regular intervals throughout the year- roughly quarterly. The meetings are open to the public. They are typically attended by other licensees who have received a complaint, other interested parties, and licensees and students that need continuing education credits. The licensee is given an opportunity to address the Committee in public session and answer any questions the Committee may have. The committee will vote to either close the matter or, if they believe a violation has occurred, issue a Notice of Violation.
Notice of Violation
A Notice of Violation is sent to the licensee if it is determined by the Ethics Committee that a violation has occurred. The Notice of Violation will give a brief account of the acts or omissions believed to constitute a violation and the specific Board statutes and rules believed to have been violated. The Notice of Violation will also contain the Committee’s recommended discipline and give the licensee 15 days to accept the discipline, reject the discipline and request an informal conference, or reject the discipline and request a formal hearing. If no response is made by the licensee, the Board will initiate default proceedings to implement the proposed discipline.
The Board is authorized to deny, revoke, temporarily suspend, or suspend a license, or may probate disciplinary action, issue a reprimand, or impose an administrative penalty. Each Board has rules setting out their schedule of sanctions, aggravated or mitigated by multiple factors.
If the licensee chooses to attend an informal conference, they will be notified by the executive director of the time and place of the conference, with no less than 10 working days notice. The conference is attended by the executive director, at least one Board member, and the Board’s legal counsel. The licensee and their counsel are afforded the opportunity to make a statement and present evidence as appropriate. The Board members, executive director, and legal counsel may ask questions of the licensee. At the conclusion of the conference, the Executive Director and the Board members can make a recommendation for informal disposition of the case. Informal disposition could dismissal of the matter if it is determined that no violation exists or that the Board has no jurisdiction over the matter. Alternatively, the panel could recommend a lesser sanction.
The recommendation will be reduced to writing in an Agreed Order, which will include findings of fact, conclusions of law, and the proposed sanctions. The licensee may either accept or reject the recommendations made at the informal conference. If the licensee accepts the informal disposition, then it will go before the full Board for approval, at which time it becomes effective.
If the matter is not resolved informally, either by dismissal or some agreed sanction, the licensee is entitled to a Formal Hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Board will file a formal complaint and the licensee will be notified of a hearing date. Both sides will have an opportunity to conduct discovery and file pre-trial motions. The Board will present their case at trial through the introduction of evidence and calling witnesses. The licensee will present their defense through introduction of their evidence and witnesses. Both sides will present a closing argument either in-person or through briefing.
After the record is complete. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will consider all the evidence and make findings of fact and conclusions of law. The ALJ will send his recommendation to all parties in a Proposal For Decision (PFD) that will go before the Board for their consideration in making a final decision.
The Texas professional license defense attorneys of the Leichter Law Firm PC can help you through all of these career-altering challenges. Contact us at (512) 495-9995 to speak with an attorney about your specific situation.