Massachusetts Board of Nursing Substance Abuse Program

Massachusetts Board of Nursing Substance Abuse ProgramThe Massachusetts Board of Nursing (“Board”) Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (“SARP”) is a program which helps nurses with alcohol or other drug problems to return to practice while protecting the public’s safety, health and welfare. The SARP is five years in length and was created as a voluntary alternative to disciplinary action taken against nurses with drug and alcohol problems.

Consent Agreement for SARP Participation (“CASP”)

All SARP participants have to sign a legally-binding document which outlines the nurse’s individual recovery plan requirements. The requirements include toxicology screening, formal therapy, attending self-help groups, employment stipulations, regular assessment of the participant’s recovery progress and the use of prescribed and over-the-counter medications. Not complying with the CASP terms may lead to a termination from SARP and a referral to the Board for the right action.


All files related to the nurse’s SARP participation are maintained confidentially. Though SARP participation is confidential, communication with SARP and the therapist, nurse employers, licenses and other related people is necessary.


When can nurses start participating in SARP?

Their participation starts on the date both the applicant and the Board’s designated staff sign the applicant’s CASP.

When can a nurse resume nursing?

The SARP participants approval to practice is based on the evaluation made on the participant’s ability at safe practice.

What is the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Evaluation Committee (“SAREC”) role?

Board appointed SAREC members are volunteers who have to evaluate the SARP participants about CASP compliance. They give recommendations to the Board for making changes to the SARP participants’’ CASP based on board-approved SARP Policies.

Do SARP participants need prior approval to accept a nursing position?

Yes. Nurses need an SARP Coordinator’s approval to all their prospective nursing positions to accept a nursing position.

Can nurses enroll in SARP without any complaint against the nurse’s practice?

Yes, nurses can enroll without a complaint. They are immediately referred to a designated provider for a SARP assessment and are encouraged to start attending self-help groups to learn about substance abuse and dependence. Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and Narcotic Anonymous (NA) are great sources of guidance, assistance and encouragement to learn how to maintain sobriety.

How much is it to participate in SARP?

SARP participants have to pay for 15 individual therapy sessions and drug toxicology screens.

What should participants do if they fall ill and cannot follow the terms of their Consent Agreement for SARP Participation (CASP)?

The SARP Coordinator has to be notified immediately.

Do SARP Participants’ nursing license status remain current online?

Yes, when the nurse remains in SARP, their license status remains current but with contract restrictions on the Board’s license verification website ‘check-a-license’.

What are the prescribed or over-the-counter medications permitted for SARP participants?

Their treatment provider may prescribe medications for treating particular illnesses. All participants’ medications have to be reviewed by the Medical Review Officer (MRO) and the SARP Coordinator.

What happens to the nurse’s nursing license on completing SARP?

The nurse will be able to practice without restrictions after 5 years of participation.