Licensed Health Care Mandated Reporters

By: Richard Brown

As a healthcare provider licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, it is extremely important to be aware of your legal (moral?) obligations as it related to informing the authorities of certain misconduct or even reporting fellow providers that appear to show that the health care professional is, or may be, unable to practice his or her profession with reasonable skill or safety.

The first area of concern is when you, the health care provider, come upon a situation of suspected child neglect or abuse; under Connecticut General Statute §17a-101, et seq., you are required "mandated" to report the suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Families, DCF or the local law enforcement department within 12 hours or less.

Section 46a-116, CGS requires you, upon having reasonable suspicion that a person with intellectual disabilities has been abused or neglected, to report said suspected abuse within 5 days to the Office of Protectors and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities; of course in an emergency, the matters should be referred to the local police agency for immediate action to protect the safety and well-being of the abused individual.

As a health care professional, including doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and more, in addition to issues involving children or persons with disabilities, you also have a similar obligation under 17b-407, CGS to report suspected neglect or abuse of residents of long-term care facilities; such reporting requirements also extend to therapists, nurses' aides, LPN and anyone licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Concerning the elderly, irrespective of whether they are in a long term facility or not, you must report suspected abuse or neglect to the Commissioner of Social Services Office within 5 days; again, for emergency situations, such reporting should be made to the local law enforcement agency.

Finally, all health care professionals who encounter fellow health care providers, where the individual believes that he or she has a reasonable belief that said health care professional is or may be unable to practice his or her profession with reasonable safety and/or skill you must report said individual to DPH; this would include serious physical illness, abuse of drugs or alcohol, criminal misconduct such as stealing medications, generating false medical documents and any other conduct that could affect the provider's ability to practice. It is notable that reporting includes yourself, if you suspect alcohol or prescription medication (or any drugs) problem; yes, this does include getting convicted or put into a program as a result of drunk driving. As an alternative to notifying DPH, if the issue centers around substance abuse (including alcohol) one may fulfil the legal reporting requirements by reporting the suspected individual to the confidential and effective program, HAVEN (860-828-3175). Concerning the procedure of reporting an individual, you are required to fill out a form found on the DPH's website, listing the person and the reason for the reporting and submitting the same to DPH or HAVEN.

Failure to report under the aforementioned situations can cause you, in some cases, e.g.-child abuse or neglect, to be prosecuted for committing a criminal offense of failure to report, where jail time or fines could be imposed. In the case of failing to report suspected impaired health care professionals to DPH or HAVEN, you could jeopardize your own license and ability to practice your profession. Keep in mind if the issue is alcohol or substance abuse, both HAVEN and DPH are willing to work with the individual, especially with those that self-report, to deal with the issues and getting that person back to his or her career in a safe fashion. In such situations, it is extremely helpful, although not required, to obtain the services of an attorney or law firm experienced in dealing with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and HAVEN in deciding which path to take and in protecting your legal rights.