Walla Walla social worker placed on probation

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WALLA WALLA — A local addiction and social worker professional has been placed on probation by the Washington state Department of Health.

Kim E. Funderburk was licensed as registered counselor in 2003 (a designation now abolished by the state), a chemical dependency professional in 2004 and social worker in 2009. She was charged a year ago with providing treatment below the standard and undermining the therapeutic relationships with patients, which created a risk of harm, while working at Heart Connections in Walla Walla.

According to the departments’s findings, from about November, 2007, through July, 2008, Funderburk allegedly treated multiple family members individually without signed consent, failed to get signed consent to release confidential information, including releasing the records of a 13-year-old to the child’s mother, father, their attorneys and a court.

In late November, an expert witness for the state said a clear need must be proven to engage in counseling a number of family members at one time, and that potential harm occurs when the therapist fails to maintain objectivity with each member and develops biases from one member to another.

In this case it was obvious one child “clearly needed individual therapy,” the state’s expert said in court documents. “Treating one parent and a child was not in the individual’s best interest considering the conflict between spouses.”

As well, Funderburk blurred her role as a family therapist by recommending to a court one parent over another for custody of the 13-year-old, who was depressed about her parents’ impending divorce, on medication for depression and emotionally vulnerable at the time, according to the state.

The Department of Health said the therapist engaged in inappropriate hugging of the 13-year-old at least three times and allowed the child to sit on her lap, although the child felt uncomfortable with the offer.

Funderburk also engaged in inappropriate email communication with the parents of the youngster and divulged information the child did not want shared with her mother and father.

Copies of those emails were presented at the November hearing.

In 2012, Funderburk told the Union-Bulletin she was not guilty and the charges were “ridiculous,” and stemmed from an altercation with Heart Connections.

Funderburk’s action fell below the standard of care, according to the Department of Health, and constitutes unprofessional conduct

In an order signed Jan. 10, Health Law Judge Jerry Mitchell said Funderburk’s chemical dependency and social worker license is placed on probation for two years and she must complete 12 hours of course work in ethics and boundaries. She may not seek modification of the order during that time period and must pay the costs of complying with all the requirements.

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