Dr. Brady Allen chosen based on work with Dallas County Medical Society on substance abuse issues
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Brady Allen has been appointed to the board of the new Texas Physician Health Program.
For the first time, physicians in Texas can report themselves voluntarily for substance abuse and physical and mental health issues without jeopardizing their medical licenses. Friends, relatives, patients or co-workers who have reason to suspect problems may also make referrals.
The law creating this new board passed in the last legislative session. The board was formed last November and includes six medical doctors.
In addition to Allen, who is openly gay and is one of the area’s foremost HIV specialists, the board includes Dr. Allison Jones, a psychiatrist
from Austin who is lesbian.
Allen said he was chosen for experience he has working with the Dallas County Medical Society on substance abuse issues. But he thinks inclusion of gay and lesbian members on the board sends a message that this new program is safe and welcoming.
“We’re hoping to be physician advocates,” Allen said.
Previously, doctors referred to the Texas Medical Board for substance abuse issues would be investigated for disciplinary action.
Allen said that when the board was created, about 150 physicians were transferred to them for their recommendations and oversight. He said the board is hoping to get about 60 new referrals a year.
“Other states that have done this have had great success,” he said. “We’re modeling ourselves after other successful programs.”
Doctors can be referred for drug and alcohol abuse. Those found with addiction problems can be referred for treatment and then followed for a period of five years.
For the first year, they undergo random urine testing weekly. When they successfully complete that year, the monitoring and testing schedule can be reduced.
Allen said that most doctors entering this program go for an extended 90-day treatment program rather than the more common, but less successful, 30-day treatments.
Doctors may be referred to the panel for mental and physical problems as well.
A variety of conditions may prompt concern. Dementia, bipolar disorder or Parkinson’s Disease are three Allen mentioned.
A doctor with bipolar disorder might need his or her medication checked and the panel could require supervision of a psychiatrist. Parkinson’s, which causes shaking, might require a surgeon to stop operating. A physician with Alzheimer’s could be monitored to determine when he needed to retire.
Some mental problems are a result of daily stress, Allen said, adding that the routine stress could be compounded for lots of gay and lesbian professionals who are not out at work. He said he wondered whether that contributes to self-destructive behaviors.
Allen said he thinks the program will be very successful.
“We have a big economic hammer over their head,” he said. “If their license is in jeopardy, they could lose their livelihood.”
While confidentiality for the doctor is assured, patient safety is also important. To maintain confidentiality, a doctor signs an agreement with a long list of conditions. Failure to comply with any of them can move the case to the medical board for punishment.
The program is self-sustaining, costing physicians who participate $1,200 annually. Those subject to random testing pay for their own screenings.
More information is available online at txphp.state.tx.us.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010