Diversion Evaluation Committees (DEC)

In the case of a licensed dentist, registered dental assistant, or registered dental assistant in extended function becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs, they can enter a confidential program that offers a means of recovery from addiction without the loss of their license. The program is called Diversion, and it provides access to appropriate treatment services and intervention programs.

The Diversion Program is available to dental professionals that meet the eligibility criteria, and its purpose is to rehabilitate licensed professionals and protect the public.

What are Diversion Evaluation Committees?

There are two Diversion Evaluation Committees – the Northern DEC (meets quarterly in Sacramento) and the Southern DEC (meets quarterly in Los Angeles). The committees are made of three dentists, one dental assistant, one psychologist or physician, and one public member. All of them have knowledge or experience in the field of chemical dependency. The Board appoints all committee members who serve the Board. They are there to assist the Dental Board in evaluating licenses of dental professionals who may be impaired due to the abuse of drugs or alcohol.

When applying for the committee membership, several factors are taken into account:

  • Time. Diversion Evaluation Committees are four-year terms, and members are required to attend a minimum of four days each year for committee meetings. They also must be available for a phone consultation with program staff and participants.
  • Expertise. Committee members must be knowledgeable and experienced in the field of chemical dependency.
  • Committee members are responsible for evaluating and determining which program applicants will be admitted to the Diversion Program (with assistance from the clinical case manager and other committee members). They also have to develop a rehabilitation plan for each participant and determine if the participant may resume his or her dentistry practice safely.
  • Each committee member will be reimbursed for expenses, which include meals, transportation, and lodging. They will also receive $100 per day for each committee meeting.

Diversion Program for Participants

Behind the Diversion Program, licensees rarely lose their license. There is a possibility for losing a license in situations where licensees have been deemed a public risk (while in the Diversion Program) or have repeated acts of noncompliance. During the program, participants are required to cease their dental practice for 30 days and undergo a clinical assessment. During this period, they must provide 30 consecutive days of negative drug tests before being considered to continue their practice. Whether they may safely resume their practice will be determined by the Diversion Evaluation Committee.

The participation in the program will go into public records only if an accusation is filed with the attorney general’s office. In this case, it becomes public information accessible for public viewing. The Diversion Programs typically last 3-5 years, and after a participant completes the program, their records are destroyed once the DEC has determined that they have been rehabilitated. After three years, all other records are destroyed.

Drug or alcohol addiction is a complex and compulsive brain disease. It is characterized by uncontrollable and compulsive cravings, seeking, and use, and it persists despite extremely negative consequences. As for dental professionals, they expose themselves as well as their patients to risk, because their abilities and judgment are impaired due to the influence of addictive substances.

According to laws and regulations of the Dental Board of California, Uniform Standards Relating to Substance Abusing Licensees, California Code of Regulations, Title 16, Sections 1018 and 1018.1 is an approved regulation for helping dental professionals with drug or alcohol addiction. They will be allowed to go through a program in hopes that they receive the help they need. If they should fail, they will lose their practicing license permanently in California, which is decided during a hearing with the Dental Board of California.

Diversion Evaluation Committees have a significant role in rehabilitating dental professionals. We want to emphasize the risks of impaired dental professionals and hope to raise the awareness of enormous consequences. We are Dental Specialties Institute Inc. – a highly-regarded Californian institute that provides education for Dental Assistants.