About Our HIMS Program
What is a HIMS AME?
A HIMS AME is an FAA designated Senior Airman Medical Examiner who is trained in evaluating airmen for substance- or alcohol-related conditions and other mental health conditions.
While primarily serving airline pilots who are in recovery as part of the Human Interventional Motivation Study (HIMS) Program, the FAA may direct any pilot to consult a HIMS AME for possible special issuance of medical certification for these conditions.
What is the HIMS Program?
It is an industry-wide effort in which managers, pilots, healthcare professionals, and the FAA work together to preserve careers and enhance air safety. It is a partnership, a team approach.
HIMS is a voluntary, occupational substance abuse treatment program, specific to commercial pilots, that coordinates the identification, treatment, and return to work process for affected aviators. It is abstinence based.
The focus of HIMS isn’t regulation (prescribing conduct) but about changing thinking (culture of safety). Recovery is a state of mind, not merely the absence of drugs; a process, not an event.
For more information, click this link.
What is substance abuse (including alcohol)?
For aviation medicine, substance abuse is defined somewhat differently than current psychiatric definitions. A comparison of the definitions is shown in the table in this document.
What is the HIMS process?
For airline pilots, the process is summarized in the Pre-Special Issuance and Post-Special Issuance Diagrams below (click for full size).
Generally, the HIMS AME becomes involved following the “treatment box”; the airlines HIMS director will provide specific instructions on when to consult the HIMS AME. Documentation requirements for consideration of an initial Special Issuance are found here.
For private pilots, or pilots flying for companies that do not have an in-house HIMS program, the above processes are a bit more challenging, as there is not company backing for many of the required monitoring steps. The process will need to be individualized in the areas of the diagram designated for monitoring by the Company Management and a Peer Pilot.
Individuals on serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) referred by the FAA to a HIMS AME have a different process.
How do I set up the first appointment with my HIMS AME?
Contact our office at 605.339.1783 and tell the scheduler you will be sending materials for an airman HIMS AME appointment.
Prior to your first appointment, you must arrange for the following documentation to be sent to our office.
- A copy of the letter from the FAA indicating you need to consult a HIMS AME – this can come from you.
- Copy of your FAA Airman Medical Record (to request, call 405.954.4821 or click here – this needs to be sent to our office directly by the FAA.
These need to arrive well in advance of your appointment so that they can be reviewed. Once all documentation has arrived, your appointment will be scheduled.
What to expect at the first visit?
The first visit is typically a two hour session (later sessions will be 45-50 minutes).
During this time, the HIMS AME will provide an overview of the HIMS Program and the Special Issuance Process.
The FAA Airman’s Medical Record will be reviewed in detail together, and the airman will sign a comprehensive release form for other records and information that may be required for the HIMS process.
The HIMS AME will interview the airman at length regarding their medical, psychological, social, and family history, especially as it relates to the reason for entry into the HIMS Program. This will include a brief writing assignment.
The session will end with development of a plan of action and scheduling of the next HIMS AME appointment. Frequency of appointments will vary depending on the situation: typically monthly prior to receiving the Special Issuance; less frequently thereafter.
What does it cost?
The HIMS Program is both lengthy and costly. It is not covered by health insurance.
Components of the program that include fees are:
- Alcohol/substance abuse treatment
- Aftercare (in addition to AA/NA participation)
- Abstinence confirmation
- Neuropsychological testing
- Annual HIMS psychiatric evaluation
- HIMS AME visits*
*Only the HIMS AME portion occurs at the Center for Family Medicine. For the HIMS AME visits, payment must be made at time of the visit by CASH or CHECK. We will tell you the amount that will be due when we schedule the visit.
There may be some financial assistance available for pilots in the HIMS program through a benevolence fund.
Is it worth it?
The HIMS program is highly successful, with 85% of participants achieving and maintaining sobriety (and with it, their aeromedical certification); Mental Health Standards for Airman Medical Certificate
In addition to its implications for the pilot’s career and the safety of the national airspace system