Worker secures authorization for substance abuse rehabilitation
Case name: Sommerfeld v. Pacer Industries, Inc., 19 FLWCLB 177 (Fla. JCC, Pensacola 2012).
Ruling: A Florida judge of compensation claims granted a worker's request for authorization for substance abuse rehabilitation as prescribed by her treating doctor.
What it means: In Florida, substance abuse rehabilitation can be authorized for a worker where there is no preexisting drug dependency issue until the worker begins receiving narcotic medication in treatment of chronic pain for her industrial injuries.
Summary: A worker injured her back in a compensable industrial accident and underwent two surgeries. She received pain management care, including narcotic pain medication. She was eventually transitioned to long-acting narcotic medications. She provided a urine specimen, which indicated she was taking less Opana than prescribed, more Roxicodone than prescribed, along with non-prescribed drugs, including morphine, buprenorphine, and cocaine. She was advised that further narcotic medication would not be provided unless she was willing to participate in substance abuse counseling and admission for substance abuse rehabilitation. The employer denied her request for authorization of such treatment.
After a second drug screen revealed the worker's use of non-prescribed medications, her doctor discharged her from his care until she successfully completed an inpatient substance abuse program. The JCC granted authorization for substance abuse rehabilitation.
Under Florida law, disability due to the acceleration or aggravation of a disease caused by habitual use of alcohol or narcotic drugs is not an injury by accident arising out of the employment. Based on this provision, the employer argued that the worker's need for drug treatment was not compensable. However, there was no evidence of a drug dependency issue until the worker began receiving narcotic medication in treatment of chronic pain from her industrial injuries. Therefore, benefits were not precluded.
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March 18, 2013
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