Committee passes bill to require rehab for medical workers who fail drug tests

NASHVILLE, TN (WJHL) – The Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee passed a compromise of legislation prompted by our Community Watchdog investigation into drug-addicted nurses Tuesday.

The change would require all medical professionals who fail drug tests to enter a treatment program or face license suspension, according to sponsor Sen. Rusty Crowe (R), District 3.

The original bill would have required the Tennessee Department of Health to investigate every failed drug test too, which Sen. Crowe says the agency pushed back on, fearing it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, because it would have required the agency to hire new employees.

Unless a medical professional can show proof of a prescription or medical need, the proposal would force anyone who fails a drug test to enter rehab or risk losing their license, Sen. Crowe said. He said those treatment programs will keep addicted employees away from patients until they are drug-free.

“These groups will not allow providers to be working with patients if their drug tests still show they’re impaired. It’s not going to happen and so it’s a great compromise,” he said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Crowe thanked the Department of Health for its work on this legislation. Just days prior, he sent a letter to Commissioner John Dreyzehner, which expressed his concern about the future of the bill.

“I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to hear that the Department of Health would possibly not show support for this most important piece of legislation, especially since we have worked for the past year with all parties, including the Department of Health, finally getting this into a form that all agree will not only protect patients while identifying and helping addicted providers as well!!” Sen. Crowe wrote in the letter. “Please take another look at this and find a way to send a note of support by midday this coming Monday, May 8th, 2017, at which time the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to take up this issue. I appreciate your consideration and support, without which this bill will not move forward.”

Sen. Crowe said the full Senate is expected to vote on the bill no later than Wednesday.

“Do you think it will still be effective?” we asked him of the compromise.

“Oh yes, I really do,” he said.

Rep. John Holsclaw (R). District 4, says he’s working to make sure the full House votes on his companion legislation tonight or first thing in the morning.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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