All Serenity Lane staff members* shall perform their duties in the context of this Code of Ethics and shall observe all relevant rules, laws and standards.
*This policy applies to all staff members. In the context of this policy, that includes employees, contractors, volunteers, as well as students (students include but are not limited to: interns, residents or others doing practicum rotations from other agencies, and other outside institutions such as schools of medicine, counseling, nursing, psychology and the like).
- All staff members will receive an orientation by the Human Resources Manager, or designee, to this Code of Ethics and document their willingness to abide by these principles as a condition of employment.
- The Quality Improvement Committee (QIC) of Serenity Lane shall review this Code of Ethics annually for continued relevancy and make revisions as indicated.
- Admitted patients will receive an orientation to their rights, including their right to receive ethical care and to problem solving procedures should they perceive the need. This orientation shall be documented in the patient record.
- This Code of Ethics is available to all stakeholders upon request.
- Patients will be advised of the channels that are available to them for reporting ethical violations in the patient handbook and in the orientation session.
II. Confidential Information
The use of confidential information obtained as a consequence of employment as a staff member with Serenity Lane must be limited to the proper conduct of Serenity Lane’s business. All information about our patients is confidential and must never be disclosed to outsiders, except with the patient’s written authorization or as allowed under federal and/or state law. Neither Serenity Lane nor any member of the Board of Directors or the staff may use, or permit others to use, confidential information for the purpose of furthering a private interest or as a means of making a profit.
III. Responsibility to Patients
This principal refers to practices and procedures of individual and/or group counseling relationships.
- The primary obligation of Serenity Lane’s staff members is to respect the integrity and promote the welfare of the patient, whether the patient is assisted individually or in a group relationship. In a group setting, staff members are also responsible for taking reasonable precautions to protect individuals from physical and/or psychological trauma resulting from interaction within the group.
- The counseling relationship and information resulting from this relationship must be kept confidential, consistent with the obligations of all Serenity Lane staff. In a group counseling setting, the facilitator must set a norm of confidentiality regarding all group participants’ disclosures.
- If a patient is already in a counseling relationship with another professional, staff members must attempt contact with that professional after obtaining a proper authorization to disclose protected health information for the exchange of relevant information regarding the patient in question. The contact, or the attempts to contact, shall be documented in the clinical record.
- When the patient’s condition indicates that there is a clear and imminent danger to the patient or others, staff must inform responsible authorities (Duty to Warn) after consultation with the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee. If after following this “One Voice” policy regarding reporting abuse and the President/CEO does not agree that the information falls under Mandatory abuse reporting guidelines, the staff member determines it is reportable and makes such a report, the staff member will not be sanctioned or retaliated against in any way.
- The solicitation or acceptance of commissions, fees, or anything of monetary value on the part a staff member from patients, suppliers, or any other source as compensation for services routinely rendered to patients is not permitted.
- Records of the counseling relationship; including interview notes, test data, correspondence, progress notes, and other documents are to be considered professional information for use in counseling and they are considered a part of the records of Serenity Lane.
- Revelation to individuals or organizations of a patient’s protected health information shall occur with the written consent of the patient, unless the state or federal government allows or requires release of the information without the patient’s written consent. Patients are given a copy of Serenity Lane’s Notice of Privacy Practices which describes how clinical information about them may be used and disclosed with and without their written authorization.
- Use of data derived from a counseling relationship for purposes of counselor training or research shall be confined to content that can be disguised to ensure full protection of the identity of the patient.
- In recognition of the fact that the relationship between staff members and patients is one in which the utmost discretion, good judgment and ethical behavior is of paramount importance, certain restrictions as to the scope of that relationship need to be carefully and strictly outlined and adhered to by all staff. This needs to be done in order to ensure the relationship’s integrity and therapeutic soundness. Therefore, activities such as in-kind payment for services (i.e. a patient offering free meals at his or her restaurant to a counselor in exchange for counseling services), and financial transactions between staff members and patients such as lending/borrowing money, entering into loan agreements, formation of social relationships secondary to the ongoing therapeutic relationship, or the sponsoring (as in the practice of 12-Step groups and others) of active patients are all considered to be unethical and are not to be engaged in by the staff member or students. Giving or lending items to patients such as tobacco products is also prohibited for all staff. Similarly, if any staff member becomes aware of a colleague engaging in such activities, it is his or her responsibility to bring such issues and concerns to the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee immediately.
IV. Ethical Conflicts
- If a staff member determines an inability to be of professional assistance to the patient, or perceives an ethical conflict, the staff member must bring this situation and its concerns to his or her supervisor. The supervisor will determine the most appropriate action to be taken.
- Staff members who have relatives, close friends, and/or business acquaintances who become Serenity Lane patients will excuse themselves from taking an active part in the treatment of the individual while involved with Serenity Lane of such relatives, friends and acquaintances. This is necessary to ensure objectivity in the service to such individuals.
V. Responsibility to Colleagues
Serenity Lane staff members should treat colleagues with respect, courtesy, fairness and good faith.
- Staff members should cooperate with colleagues to promote professional interests and concerns.
- Staff members should respect ethical confidences shared by colleagues in the course of their professional relationships and transactions.
- Staff members should create and maintain conditions of practice that facilitate ethical and competent professional performance by colleagues.
- Any staff member having knowledge of unethical practices on the part of another colleague shall report such practices to Serenity Lane’s President/CEO, or Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
- Staff members who replace or are replaced by a colleague in a professional practice should act with consideration for the interest, character, and reputation of that colleague.
- Staff members should extend to colleagues of other professions the same respect and cooperation that is extended to their staff colleagues.
- Staff members may not use the work place for proselytizing for religious, political or economic purposes.
VI. Responsibility to Serenity Lane
Serenity Lane staff should adhere to commitments made to Serenity Lane.
- Staff members should work to improve Serenity Lane’s policies and procedures, as well as the efficiency and effectiveness of its services.
- All staff members should act to prevent discrimination of any kind at Serenity Lane. When serving in the capacity of a supervisor, leadership should act to prevent and eliminate discrimination at Serenity Lane in work assignments and its employment policies and practices.
- Staff members should use the resources of Serenity Lane with scrupulous regard, and only for the purpose for which they are intended.
- Staff members should respect and safeguard the personal property of patients, family members and other stakeholders as well as Serenity Lane Property.
VII. Business Transactions
All staff members should avoid representing Serenity Lane in any transaction with any person, firm, corporation, or organization with which the staff member, or any member of the staff member’s family, has any material connection or in which he or she owns a substantial interest. Any such conflict needs to be brought to the attention of his or her supervisor.
Staff members who serve as an officer or a board member of any other organization, corporation, association, government entity, etc. shall not represent Serenity Lane in any transactions with that same organization, corporation, association, or government entity in any contractual relationship without specific approval of the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
All transactions with outside suppliers should be conducted on a business-like basis in the best interest of Serenity Lane. Decisions should be governed by a customer-business relationship and not by personal friendship.
A. Civic Activities: Active participation by staff members in religious, community, professional or charitable organizations is encouraged. Approval is not required to participate in or accept appointment as a trustee, director or officer of a non-profit organization unless there is some other potential conflict of interest between the organization and Serenity Lane.
B. Political Activities: A staff member may participate in political activities on his or her own time and in accordance with his or her individual desires and political preferences. However, it must be clear at all times that a staff member’s participation is done as an individual and not as a representative of Serenity Lane. Before a staff member becomes a candidate or appointee to a public office, the staff member must advise the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
C. Proprietary Knowledge: No staff member will share knowledge, facts, reports, written documents regarding Serenity Lane methods, documents regarding procedures or operations etc., without the expressed consent of the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
D. Personal Fundraising: No staff member shall utilize Serenity Lane’s resources for personal fundraising without approval of the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
Because the primary responsibility of Serenity Lane’s staff members is to provide clinical services to Serenity Lane patients in accordance with best practices in addiction and mental health treatment, Serenity Lane discourages such outside activities as facilitation of outside therapeutic groups, or any other activity that proves to be adversely affecting the staff member job performance at Serenity Lane. It is the obligation of every staff member when contemplating participating in such outside activities, to first bring these issues to the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee, for consideration and appropriate recommendations.
VIII. Marketing Ethics
The Serenity Lane Marketing Department, in addition to supporting and obeying laws and legal regulations pertaining to marketing and advertising extend and broaden the application of high ethical standards. Specifically, we will not knowingly make marketing claims or create advertising that contains:
- False or misleading statements or exaggerations
- Testimonials that do not reflect the real opinion of the individual(s) involved
- Price claims that are misleading
- Claims insufficiently supported or that distort the true meaning of practicable application of statements made by professional or scientific authority
- Statements, suggestions or graphics offensive to public decency or minority segments of the population.
We recognize there are areas that are subject to honestly different interpretations and judgment. Nevertheless, we agree not to use advertising that is in poor or questionable taste or that is deliberately insensitive.
These principles are based on the belief that sound and ethical practice is good business. Confidence and respect are indispensable to our success and our relationship with clients and the public at large is dependent upon good faith.
IX. Outside Conflicts of Interest
No outside activity must interfere or conflict with the interest of Serenity Lane. Acceptance of outside employment, election to directorships of other organizations, and participation in the affairs of outside organization carry possibilities of conflict of interest and shall be discussed with the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
No staff member of Serenity Lane will be a director or officer of any other treatment facility or any other entity, which competes directly or indirectly with Serenity Lane without prior approval of the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
Specified types of outside activities that raise conflict of interest or other difficult situations include, but are not limited to:
- Being employed or contracted by a business, or personally engaging in any activity that is competitive with Serenity Lane without specific approval of the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
- Using Serenity Lane equipment, supplies, files, letterhead, or facilities for purposes other than Serenity Lane related activities.
- Personal conduct involving the use of mood altering substances; gambling or other activities during or outside of work hours which may prove embarrassing or reflect adversely upon Serenity Lane or the professional staff member in the conduct of his or her duties at Serenity Lane.
- Statements or circumstances that may imply sponsorship or support by Serenity Lane of an outside employer or of a political, charitable, civic, religious, or similar organization when such is not the case.
X. Professional Competence and Integrity
Serenity Lane staff members must be dedicated to maintaining high standards of both professional competence and integrity and will do the following:
- Staff members who: are convicted of felonies, are convicted of misdemeanors, engage in conduct which could lead to conviction of felonies or misdemeanors related to their qualifications or functions, are expelled from other professional organizations, or have their license or certificates suspended or revoked must report such activities or actions immediately to the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
- Serenity Lane staff members or Serenity Lane’s Counselor-In-Training (CIT) Program students recovering from a substance-use disorder, other than nicotine-related or caffeine-related disorders, must document continuous abstinence under independent living conditions or recovery housing for the immediate past two years prior to providing clinical services or being a CIT and must report any relapse during their time of providing clinical services or being a CIT at Serenity Lane. Any variation requires a specific written authorization from the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
- All former Serenity Lane patients who seek to become employed, contracted with, or enroll in CIT must have at least 2 years since being discharged from Serenity Lane. This does not include involvement in Serenity Lane’s Alumni program. Any variation requires a specific written authorization from the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
- All former Serenity Lane patients who are accepted in the CIT program, become employed, or perform contract work for Serenity Lane should not have any former direct counselor as a direct supervisor for at least 5 years since discharge from Serenity Lane without specific written authorization from the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee.
- Staff members will seek appropriate professional assistance for their own personal problems or conflicts that are likely to impair their work performance or their clinical judgment.
- Staff members will not engage in sexual relationships with current patients at any time.
- Staff members or students who have direct contact with a particular patient or former patient of any Serenity Lane program shall not have, seek, or request a sexual relationship or sexual contact with that patient or former patient at any time.
- Staff members who have not had direct contact with a particular patient or former patient of any Serenity Lane program should not have, seek, or request a sexual relationship or sexual contact with that patient or former patient for a period of at least two years following that patient’s receipt of Serenity Lane services.
- All staff members shall not have or seek to have a personal, professional, or business relationship or contact with any patient for a period of at least two years following the patient’s receipt of Serenity Lane services.
- Relationships between staff members and current or former patients or clients within Twelve Step recovery fellowships and other fellowships are sometimes unavoidable. In such cases, the relationships are to be maintained at a group level rather than a one-on-one level. These guidelines apply to the time a current or former patient participates in any Serenity Lane program and for the period established for personal relations as noted above.
- Staff members will not engage in verbal, emotional or behavioral harassment of patients or colleagues.
- Staff members will not attempt to diagnose, treat or advise on problems outside recognized boundaries of their competence.
- Under no circumstances, other than noted above, is a staff member ever to meet a patient, or former patient, or patient family member, outside of Serenity Lane property unless participating in a Serenity Lane sanctioned activity. Additionally, no staff member may ever give a patient his or her or other Serenity Lane past or current staff’s personal cell phone number, home phone number, email address or any other means of contacting them outside of Serenity Lane, including texting, social media resources (i.e. Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, imgur, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) within a two-year period following the patient’s discharge from treatment. Extenuating circumstances such as family member or associate known prior to starting into treatment may be an exception to this policy and counsel shall be sought from the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee regarding appropriateness of actions.
- Staff members will attempt to prevent the distortion or misuse of their clinical findings.
- Staff members will be aware that because of their ability to influence and alter the lives of others, they must exercise special care when making public their professional recommendations and opinions through testimony or other public statements.
XI. Responsibility to the Profession
Staff members respect the rights and responsibilities of professional colleagues; and participate in activities which advance the goal of the profession.
- Staff members remain accountable to the standards of the profession when acting as members or employees of organizations.
- All staff member that are involved in a professional organization, such as counseling and or medical, must understand and be in compliance with the ethical standards of that organization.
- Staff members recognize a responsibility to participate in activities that contribute to a better community and society.
- Staff members are concerned with developing laws and regulations pertaining to their field that serve the public interest, and with altering such laws and regulations that are not in the public interest.
- Staff members recognize the need for continuing education and are open to new procedures and changes in expectations and values over time.
- Staff members recognize that personal problems and conflicts may interfere with professional effectiveness. Accordingly, they refrain from undertaking any activity in which their personal problems are likely to lead to inadequate performance or harm to a patient or colleague. If engaged in such activity when they become aware of their personal problems, it is the staff member’s or student’s obligation to bring this to the attention of his or her immediate supervisor so that a determination can be made as to whether they should suspend, terminate or limit the scope of their professional activity.
XII. Witnessing of documents
Unless approved by the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee, no staff member shall act as witness to any document, for example, a will or advance directive, for a patient except Serenity Lane generated forms. See Notary Services Policy for more information.
XIII. Candor with Management, Auditors, and Counsel
Staff members are expected to maintain complete and open communication with management regarding Serenity Lane matters. Any staff member deliberately concealing information or misleading management, auditors, or counsel shall be sanctioned up to dismissal and referral to a prosecutor for possible criminal justice action.
XIV. Implementation of the Code of Ethics
Difficult questions of judgment may arise in connection with this Code of Ethics. If any doubt exists regarding the propriety of an action or activity, the staff member should seek advice and written approval from the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee. All staff members are expected to promptly report the existence of any of their relationships, interest, or actions, which might violate or appear to violate this Code of Ethics.
XV. Violations of the Code of Ethics
Any suspected violations of this Code of Ethics shall be referred to the President/CEO, or the Vice President of Administration/Finance, or designee. Violations of this Code of Ethics may be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal and referral to a prosecutor for possible criminal justice action. In situations where infractions of the Code may have violated federal or state law, such infractions will be disclosed as appropriate, and reported to enforcement agencies as required.