Counselor suspended for drinking rum and smoking pot with underage client

By: - September 27, 2021 11:39 am

The state of Iowa has suspended the license of a mental health counselor who allegedly purchased alcohol for, and smoked marijuana with, an underage client. (Photo by Elsa Olofsson, via Unsplash)

The state of Iowa has taken emergency action in immediately suspending the license of a mental health counselor who allegedly purchased alcohol for, and smoked marijuana with, an underage client.

The Iowa Board of Behavioral Science alleges that mental health counselor Michelle Banks, 48, of Spirit Lake made suggestive, lewd, lascivious or improper remarks or advances to a client, and that she also has a mental or physical inability to practice in a safe and competent manner. In addition, the board charges Banks with engaging in unethical conduct or practice harmful or detrimental to the public.

According to board records, Banks holds an Iowa license for mental health counseling that expires in September 2022. In January 2021, she allegedly sent what the board calls “an inappropriate text message” to a client. At that time, the board says, Banks’ discontinuation of prescribed medication had adversely impacted her behavior and her actions as a mental health counselor.

In April 2021, Banks was criminally charged with supplying alcohol to an underage individual in Woodbury County. The criminal complaint states that Banks was a passenger in a vehicle where an open container of alcohol and marijuana were located. The criminal complaint indicates Banks admitted to smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol in the vehicle with the other passengers.

The criminal complaint also indicates Banks admitted she purchased the alcohol and that she had prior knowledge of the age of the person to whom she supplied the alcohol because she was the girl’s therapist.

The police report of the incident states that the car was stopped for a traffic-light violation and that the arresting officer smelled marijuana in the car. A search of the vehicle turned up an open container of Malibu Rum and a substance believed to be marijuana.

The police report indicates Banks admitted smoking marijuana in the car with the other passengers and admitted drinking the rum, which she had purchased for the group.

The criminal case is still pending. It’s not clear why the board’s emergency suspension came five months after the arrest.

In deciding to suspend Banks’ license, the board said Banks’ conduct was “egregious and demonstrates she is a risk to potential clients” and that her continued ability to practice posed “an immediate danger” to the public health. The board stated that “the only way to ensure that she does not practice as a mental health counselor is to suspend her license.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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