According to a newly released state audit, the Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists delayed notifying the Maryland attorney general’s office about cases of practicing without a license and sexual misconduct for nearly a year. This delay permitted the violators to keep treating patients.
The attorney general cannot punish violators, such as temporarily suspending or revoking a professional license and putting a clinician on probation, without the findings from the board.In four separate cases, the board concluded its investigations, but delayed submitting the findings to the attorney general’s office for 6 to 12 months. Two of the cases involved therapists working without a license, while the other two cases involved sexual misconduct.
State auditors examined complaints that were made between January 2014 and June 2016. The board oversees 7,888 active licensees.
The audit discovered that other complaints were not reported for up to two years. However, those complaints were for minor offenses such as unprofessional conduct.
According to the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, to resolve the issues mentioned in the report the board recently hired an interim executive director, which will work alongside the chairperson.
Since the board members did not normally monitor the cases, they were unaware of the delays, the board told auditors. The board cited a shortage of digital storage media that are utilized to convey information to the attorney general and staffing issues.
The auditors also investigated the Board of Nursing, which was found to have not suspended the licenses of nurses who owed unpaid child support, even after receiving notice from the Child Support Enforcement Administration. The agency notified the board of an estimated 236 delinquent parents – nurses – from July 2013 to November 2015.
In 2015 and 2016 the agency notified the board of 88 parents, who were delinquent on their child support payments, but the board had still not suspended their licenses one to five months later, the report said.
The health department said in a statement, the nursing board hired an employee to process the suspension of nursing licenses in February to resolve the issues.