Our healthcare and business law firm often assists physicians and other providers in obtaining and maintaining licensure. Sometimes, physicians desire assistance to ensure a smooth process without having any occurrences to disclose. The majority of the time, however, when we are hired to assist in licensure matters, the physician has a past or ongoing event that they need assistance with. We usually begin by evaluating whether the occurrence must be, should be, or need not be disclosed. One important question that is always present and concerning to many is the mental health question, which is also the first question on the Applicant Questionnaire section of the license application in Georgia. There have been different iterations of this question over the years, and earlier this year, the Medical Board modified the questions once again. This post explains the progression of this question in Georgia. If you need assistance applying for or maintaining licensure or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
The mental health question on applications for licensure can be alarming to many physicians. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I had a client explain that he chose not to go to therapy for fear that would interfere with his medical license. Although we feel like times have changed, there are still many who perhaps rightfully fear retaliation for acknowledging they have ever struggled with their mental health. The progression over the last 5 years with the Georgia Medical Board’s mental health question shows, to me, a dedication by the Medical Board to reduce that fear of retaliation.
A few years ago, the mental health question on the application was as follows:
“During the last 7 years, have you suffered from any physical psychiatric, or substance use disorder that could impair or require limitations on your functioning as a professional or has resulted in the inability to practice medicine for more than 30 days, or required court-ordered treatment or hospitalization? (If yes, provide treatment history documentation to include diagnosis, treatment regimen, hospitalization, and ongoing treatment/medication to the Board. NOTE: If you are currently enrolled in GAPHP, you may check NO.”
You can see that this version of the question was very broad, went back 7 years, and required providing medical records. However, it did allow the Georgia Professionals Health Program (“GAPHP”) exception. The GAPHP is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2012 to assist providers licensed by the Georgia medical and veterinary Boards. GAPHP “provides initial triage, referral into treatment, treatment quality monitoring, and long-term care for addiction and mental/behavioral health disorders.” GAPHP.org.
On or around 2021, the Medical Board updated the question to:
“Are you currently suffering from any condition that impairs your judgment or that would otherwise adversely affect your ability to practice medicine in a competent, ethical and professional manner? NOTE: If you are currently enrolled in GAPHP, you may check NO.”
You can see here that the question greatly decreased the scope of what would require a “yes” answer to the question. The period was reduced to “currently” and allowed the applicants discretion in
In February of 2023, the Medical Board once again updated the question to:
“Are you currently suffering from any condition for which you are not being appropriately treated that impairs your judgment or that would otherwise adversely affect your ability to practice medicine in a competent, ethical, and professional manner? NOTE: If you are currently enrolled in Georgia PHP, you may answer NO.”
This change very clearly promotes physicians getting appropriate treatment for any condition they are suffering from. Medical Board Chair Matthew Norman, MD stated: “The Board believes this is a step in [the] right direction to address clinician burnout and encourage mental health care while still protecting patients from impaired professionals. Applicants should not fear loss of a license or denial of a licensure application for seeking mental health services.” GCMB Updates Mental Health Question on Licensure Applications, medicalboard.georgia.gov (Feb. 2, 2023).
If you need assistance applying for or maintaining licensure or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, email@example.com. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
*Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice.