Finding a HIMS AME and the FAA HIMS Program

Finding a HIMS AME and the FAA HIMS Program

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Jackson Barnett

Principal Attorney

What is a HIMS AME?

Airmen who have ever been arrested for an alcohol related event such as a DUI or MIP, have sustained an injury where alcohol use was involved; or have self-admitted substance problems will most likely be asked by the FAA to work with a HIMS AME.  There are only few instances where a DUI arrest may avoid the FAA’s radar for requiring a HIMS AME. Barnett Law Offices can assist with finding a HIMS AME and the FAA HIMS Program.

For definition, HIMS AME stands for: Human Intervention Motivation Study Aviation Medical Examiner.

HIMS AMEs are trained in evaluating airmen for substance or alcohol related conditions or other mental conditions. HIMS AMEs can provide sponsorship and monitoring for such conditions when required by the FAA for medical certification purposes.

HIMS AMEs have numerous FAA checklists and airman records they are required to submit. Additionally, HIMS AMEs have specific FAA evaluation criteria they are required to comply with to satisfy the FAA’s information requirements for an airman with a suspected substance problem.

Any airman with a suspicion of alcohol dependence or abuse will almost always be required to have evaluations and monitoring before they can obtain a medical certificate. The FAA decision to determine whether an airman is to begin HIMS protocols is guided by the following criteria: 

  • BAC of the DUI (or refusal);
  • Number of DUI events and the BAC of each event;
  • Other medical conditions;
  • History of substance use, abuse or dependence;
  • Treatment or evaluations history.

How To Select a HIMS AME

The FAA publishes a list of HIMS AMEs on their website.  Selecting the right HIMS AME for your matter is crucial to the outcome of your medical certification. The HIMS AME nearest to you, may not be the best doctor to manage your case.

There are a wide variety of HIMS personnel available to an airman.  In some cases, the HIMS professional will tell the pilot, “when you’re speaking with me, it’s as if I’m the FAA”.  Other professionals are more discreet in the manner in which they process information from a pilot.    Some AMEs do not concentrate in aerospace physiology or aviation medicine.  For instance, some may be family practitioners who also happen to practice aviation medicine.  Others are exclusively aviation physicians and their entire practice is focused on successfully working with the FAA. It is important to know who the most qualified people are to assist you during this demanding process.  We can help in that decision.

Below are some of the areas you should consider when choosing a HIMS AME:

  • Experience
  • Concentration in the field
  • Personality
  • Credentials
  • Caseload
  • Aviation Attorney recommendation.

The FAA HIMS Program

HIMS is an occupational substance abuse treatment program, specific to pilots. While developed for professional aviators, the FAA will extend the process to any airman suspected of having alcohol or chemical dependencies.

The airman will work with the HIMS AME, at the direction of the FAA and the discretion of the HIMS AME.

The FAA may require the following of an airman suspected of having a substance issue:

  • Abstinence with monitoring – see below;
  • Substance Abuse Evaluation by a psychiatrist – see below;
  • Neuropsychological testing and evaluation by a HIMS trained neuropsychologist – see below;
  • Treatment (either inpatient or intensive outpatient – IOP);
  • Aftercare
  • AA or “Birds of a Feather” meetings;
  • Quarterly visits to your HIMS AME; and
  • Annual visits to your HIMS psychiatrist.

Substance or Alcohol Monitoring

The purpose of monitoring is to establish a track record and documentation of no alcohol consumption. There are two main types of monitoring that will satisfy the FAA. 

Device Based Daily Testing: A cell phone or other device that you blow into that records a BAC, in other words, a personal portable breathalyzer (e.g., Soberlink) The devices send reports to your HIMS AME, which eventually provide data for a request for certification.

Urine or Blood Based Testing: ETG Testing is typically conducted at the cadence of 14 tests in 12-month period, at random intervals.  This is a little more expensive that device-based testing, and more inconvenient if an airman travels frequently. Reports are sent directly to the HIMS AME and other designees.

FAA Substance Abuse Evaluation

As mentioned above, a psychiatric and a neuropsychological evaluation may be required. These evaluations are required by the FAA to assess the disorder, quality of recovery, and potential other psychiatric conditions or neurocognitive deficits. Due to the differences in training and areas of expertise, separate evaluations and reports are required from both a qualified psychiatrist and a qualified clinical psychologist for determining an airman’s medical qualifications.

A substance abuse evaluation (SAE) is frequently requested by the FAA and/or HIMS AME.  The type of psychiatrist that is recommended depends on the severity of the substance issue suspected. 

The type of provider to perform the evaluation will be in the letter sent to the airman from the FAA. This will be either a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), HIMS AME, Psychiatrist, Addictionologist or a HIMS psychiatrist.   Preference is given for those who have completed HIMS training.

Again, there are detailed check lists and requirements by the FAA the provider must include in the SAE evaluation report.

Once the SAE report is provided to the HIMS AME and/or FAA, a neuropsychological exam may be required.

FAA Neuropsychological Testing and Evaluation

Neuropsychological evaluations must be conducted by a HIMS Neuropsychologist (NP). The list of HIMS Neuropsychologists is not published by the FAA, and the airman must work with their HIMS AME for a recommendation for a NP.

A Neuropsychological evaluation consists of the following:

  • In depth records review
  • Testing of cognitive abilities – computer and in person testing – AKA the CORE TEST BATTERY
  • Interview with neuropsychologist
  • Mental status exam
  • Summary report of findings

Why Do I Need An Aviation Attorney?

While the HIMS AME is your medical doctor, they also serve the Federal Aviation Administration.

You need someone to advocate for you, counsel you, and prepare you for each part of finding a HIMS AME and the FAA HIMS Program.  We are experienced in successfully working with hundreds of airmen through the HIMS process.

Call us Today for A Consultation with an Aviation Attorney.