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Peak's medical license reinstated on 'lifetime probationary' status

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A Billings child and adolescent psychiatrist who was stripped of his medical license two years ago has been granted a lifetime probationary license to practice adult psychiatry.

“I was a good psychiatrist before,” Dr. James H. Peak told the state Board of Medical Examiners after its decision Friday in Big Sky. “I will be a better one now.”

Peak, 52, had petitioned the state Board of Medical Examiners to reinstate his license since January.

Reinstatement of his license comes with a string of conditions, including that he practice psychiatry only with patients 18 years and older, that he provide every patient with a declaration of who he is and what he has done and that he limit his practice to 30 hours of on-site work per week initially. He will not be allowed to see patients off-site, according to Michael Fanning, a lawyer with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

Peak, who has been unable to find employment, is expected to open a private practice.

The board in January postponed Peak’s request until March. The delay was designed to give Peak time to come up with a plan to demonstrate he will be supervised by an expert, specifically Dr. Thomas Van Dyk, a psychiatrist and medical director at the South Central Montana Regional Mental Health Center in Billings. Van Dyk has been one of Peak’s most ardent advocates and mentors.

Van Dyk said he was hoping Peak could join the staff at the Mental Health Center but the chairman of the board of directors was not receptive due to the negative publicity Peak’s situation has generated.

Bill Kennedy, chairman of the Mental Health Center board of directors, said nothing of the negative publicity surrounding Peak’s quest for reinstatement.

“We already have four psychiatrists on staff,” Kennedy said, adding that the most recent was hired in November. “We do not need another psychiatrist. We are full.”

Van Dyk will serve as Peak’s mentor and supervisor. As such he will review all of Peak’s patient charts and observe him with patients three to four hours per week for the first 90 days.

Another of his supporters has been Michael J. Ramirez, clinical coordinator for the Montana Professional Assistance Program, who calls Peak a “model participant” in the program. MPAP’s purpose is to address the problems of physicians or dentists whose ability to practice has been impaired because of sexual misconduct, substance abuse, psychiatric illness or other issues. Peak will be a lifetime participant in the program.

Peak served just less than 10 months in a Seattle federal prison after pleading guilty in August 2011 to possessing child pornography. He had been employed as a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Billings Clinic since 1994.

Peak was also sentenced to a lifetime of probation in connection with his guilty plea.

Fanning said the federal probation sentence coupled with MPAP’s lifetime participation requirement will motivate Peak to comply with all conditions of his license reinstatement. If he does not comply, the response will be “swift and powerful.”

“We all hope that in time Dr. Peak demonstrates competency, safety and stability,” Fanning said. “Dr. Peak has been publicly humiliated. I have to admire him because the easy thing would have been to fade away. But his call to serve has outweighed the humiliation and embarrassment of what he has gone through.”

Since his release from prison, Peak has been working to restore not only his medical license but also his reputation and the trust he lost when his double life was exposed.

Since August, he has been volunteering 20 hours a week at the Mental Health Center in Billings, where he is helping update policies and procedures. He has had no contact with patients.



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