My story starts May 2018. About a month before my residency graduation an anonymous letter shows up at HR department which contained nothing but provable lies intended to tarnish my reputation and ruin my career. I instantly knew who had written the letter because I had been dealing with a woman who I already filed a PPO against who had been stalking and attacking me for months because of a personal vendetta over a boy, and she had only recently filed an unfounded false police report with similar accusations which was inherently dismissed. Well because of the letter I was drug tested on the spot at my hospital, which came back positive for marijuana. I had this done the weekend before, not while at work, and I had no previous problems at work. I had already matched into one of the top fellowship programs in the country in the single most competitive field of all of medicine that year. My hospital instructed me to contract the Michigan health professionals recovery program (HPRP) for evaluation. When I first contacted them they only gave me only TWO names of doctors to go to for my initial evaluation who both had a $400 up front cash charge for a one hour evaluation which was specifically and only for people referred from HPRP for “paperwork”. This was on top of billing my insurance. I also got an additional $425 out-of-pocket bill a couple weeks later for the urine test. When my evaluation was over the doctor (Dr. Fox) stated he was sending me to outpatient rehab because “I tested positive for an illegal substance so HPRP is going to make him do something and he didn’t have a choice”. Not because I actually needed treatment. He stated it was my “punishment”. I didn’t know any better so I complied. I also didn’t find out until almost a year later after subpoenaing records through my lawyer (because both HPRP and Dr. Fox refused to show me my own evaluation and apparently legally don’t have to) that he wrote gross exaggerations and even frank lies in the evaluation to make it look like I had a substance abuse problem to justify sending me to rehab and putting me in a monitoring contract.
My fellowship which was supposed to start a month after that which was in Indiana and I currently lived in Michigan so HPRP then told me to contact the Indiana program since I was switching states. Well, every single doctor that gets referred to Indiana for ANY reason (and ONLY doctors) are forced to go to one of their three “preferred centers” In either Chicago, Atlanta, or Mississippi for a multi-day long $5000 out-of-pocket evaluation, regardless if they had already been evaluated elsewhere. I went to the positive sobriety institute in Chicago where they claimed I had multiple addictions even though I didn’t actually meet criteria for addiction by any means. They stated I had a severe stimulant addiction because I took a daily Adderall once a day as prescribed for 15 years. They put I had a “mild cocaine addiction” because I willingly admitted that I tried it TWICE in my ENTIRE life and didn’t even like it- and it didn’t show up on ANY of my drug tests including both hair and fingernails- which they also refused to show me and I didn’t finally see until almost a year later. My friends and family all stated that I didn’t have a problem – but they were “enabling” me. When I asked them repeatedly to explain their diagnosis they simply stated “we’ve been doing this for 30 years, we just know“. They then forced me to go to their $30,000 partial hospitalization rehab and if I didn’t go I lost my license. The WORST part is (which I didn’t find out until almost my last day) the people who did my initial evaluation- OWNED THE REHAB. 2 out of 4 of my evaluators were husband and wife and owned the place, aka had significant and unbiased financial stake in fabricating diagnoses to justify forced inpatient treatment. They demanded 30,000$ cash up front – of which I only had 11. The rest was supposed to come out in 1,100$ monthly withdrawals and I signed the paperwork for them to take the money after I left. Well I found this out near the end so on my final exit interview I told them that I was going to sue them for racketeering (which it obviously is). Well guess what- those monthly withdrawals never came. It’s been two years. There’s only ONE reason they wouldn’t take the 19,000$ i owed them when I already signed the paperwork stating they could- because they knew I wouldn’t sue them for 11k but I would 30k, and that I would win. And that would expose their whole operation. After I finally subpoenaed my records through my lawyer a year later I found out that they actually LIED to me about my initial test results and apparently legally they don’t have to actually let you see them. My fingernails were only positive for my prescription medications, a moderate amount of alcohol, and a light amount of weed. And none were anywhere near excessive amounts.
I completed the rehab program and went to my fellowship but it basically derailed my entire career and put a big black mark on me. Everyone treated me differently and thought I wasn’t good enough/didn’t trust me. I once had an attending tell me they were all “afraid I would be drunk on call and kill someone”. Even though I NEVER had a drinking problem. They once made me leave work and drug test mid day because I drank too much caffeine and my hands were shaky (which obviously was negative, as all my tests were). I was on call all the time and worked sometimes over 100 hours a week. In addition to starting a month and a half late, I was forced to go to 3 a week alcoholics anonymous meetings which were all a 15-20 minute drive away and an hour long, a weekly doctors only AA meeting which was over a half hour drive away, drug testing at a facility a half hour drive away with over an hour wait, weekly mandated therapy, and other various meetings. Try to imagine having to do all that on top of an 100 hour a week surgical fellowship. I was routinely sleeping only 2-3 hours a night and I was more exhausted and run down then you can possibly imagine. I lost 20 lbs unintentionally. I really did try very very hard and I wanted that fellowship more than anything, but it was frankly impossible to do both. In addition to all that, Indiana took away my ADHD medication (adderall) which I had been on for 15 years and I really do sincerely need. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep up and ended up being terminated from my fellowship, the same fellowship I had literally just gone through hell to keep. I told them over and over that it was impossible for me to fulfill all the requirements demanded of me and that I was barely sleeping and so deliriously tired I couldn’t function and felt unsafe to care for patients, but they just told me “this is what you signed up for”. Repeatedly. After I got let go I came very close to suicide. My entire life was leading up to that fellowship and I couldn’t do it because of these monitoring programs.
Finally after lying in bed for weeks, coming very close to becoming a stripper for cash as I couldn’t even afford rent or food, I moved back to Michigan to be near my family and friends. I then found out that I could still work as a radiologist as long as I passed the second section of my board exam, which I didn’t previously realize, so I studied on my own and independently passed my board exam. I re-instated my monitoring contract with Michigan HPRP so that I could continue working. I got very lucky in finding my current job where I have been for a year and a half because they gave me a chance no one else ever would, and after mentoring me and observing my exceptional skills, I have finally been able to prove my worthiness after starting from such a negative light.
Since I have been back to Michigan the average cost for my on average weekly urine tests has steadily climbed from around 50$ to now 150$, not even including the site collection fee. Then last October one of my urine tests came back positive for a chemical called mitragynine which is found in Kratom. Kratom is an herbal extract that comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree. Kratom extract can be used to make a liquid product and is sold in almost every smoke shop in the state. It is marketed as a safe alternative treatment for muscle pain, which I was specifically using occasionally for migraines. I was never once told that this was not allowed and honestly had no idea that it wouldn’t be as it is sold legally and widely available, and it is sold in the same shops as nicotine products which are allowed without special approval. If I was ever just ONCE told that it was not allowed than I wouldn’t have used it. Well Because of that positive result, HPRP took me off work for almost 2 weeks, the time required for me to see my psychiatrist and get approval to go back to work, for it to clear from my urine, and the 2-5 business days it takes firstsource to receive the urine results. In addition, they added 6 months to my monitoring contract and increased my special testing to nearly double the cost, which I was told would be for only 6 months, but has continued to date. This was my first offense with no previous warning and all subsequent tests have been negative. If the intent of the program was actually to make sure I do not have a drug addiction, and not to be punitive or for financial gain, then shouldn’t I have been given a warning first before extending my contract 6 months? Like I said, I honestly had no idea it wouldn’t be allowed. Their response was that I have to “clear everything I ingest with my psychiatrist first”. EVERYTHING. When I asked about nicotine they just stated “that’s allowed”. I have asked repeatedly for a list of banned substances, which they refuse to give me. Indiana and even the rehab program in Chicago gave you a list, as they should. If they don’t then they should at LEAST let you off with a warning if something shows up that you didn’t know you weren’t allowed to take. I have asked repeatedly about Kava tea, along with several other supplements and alternative medicines, of which no one can give me a solid answer on, including my psychiatrist. If there is no clear consensus on what I am allowed to take then they should give us a list of banned substances. It seems to me like this is done on purpose to trap us into testing positive for substances so they can extend our contract and make more money off our testing. There were many other people who also tested positive for Kratom and also had their contracts extended. Between all of us that totals up to well over 20,000$ in extra costs for drug screens (an extra 200$ a month for an extra 6 months for 4 people, and there were probably much more than 4 people who also tested positive that I don’t know about and that doesn’t include the extra costs for the remainder of our contract before the 6 month extension.) My guess is that it was probably at least 50,000$. If they would have given us just one warning at all of any kind then they wouldn’t have made all that money. Now remind me again the purpose of HPRP? Is it really to “ensure public safety”? Because if so, one warning would have been enough. I’m sure if you look into it, someone profited significantly off this.
My most recent major grievance is that HPRP has just informed us that we are no longer allowed to go to the JAMS (probation centers) for our urine tests because of “protocol violations” although in the ~50 times I’ve gone there I have never once experienced that. That now leaves me with only one option that is open past 5pm and doesn’t interfere with work, Concentra. FirstSource (the company who does our absurdly expensive drug tests) has previously told me that they have a paid contract with concentra so that we can go to any concentra in the country. Well the urine collection fee at Concentra is 45$ where it is only 13$ at JAMS for exactly the same thing, and Concentra is usually a 1-2 hour wait. Also the bathrooms at concentra are extremely tiny which leaves me with my observing employee literally at my feet and 100% in violation of the CDC and federal 6 foot social distancing requirement, putting my health directly at risk. Concentra also directly asks if “I have been in direct contact with anyone with coronavirus in the past 14 days” which I am forced to lie about as I am in direct contact with them every day, but if I say yes than they won’t let me test and HPRP will punish me and extend my contract. Going to Concentra puts my health directly at risk and forces me to commit libel so as not to get my contract further extended. I have told my case manager and the director all these issues and they basically told me that I don’t have a choice.
While these monitoring programs started with good intentions, are now racked with corporate greed and corruption. They have unlimited and unchecked power and are ruining people’s lives, driving many doctors to suicide. They are punitive and not focused on our health or safety. They survive on the idea that if we cooperate with everything they say and pay absurd amounts of money then they will keep our indiscretions from going public, which is essentially blackmail and coercion. They need to be stopped. Something needs to be done, and I won’t stop until something is. Even after my contract is over I won’t let this go. This is wrong on so many levels.