Since January 1980, following a change in California law, impaired physicians have been given the opportunity to be diverted from possible medical board discipline into a statewide treatment program financed by the Board of Medical Quality Assurance. The success of the program has depended on a rapid response mechanism, an individualized treatment program, an ironclad confidentiality, and a multilevel monitoring system. This nondisciplinary approach has made it easier for physicians to encourage their sick colleagues to volunteer for treatment. The experience after 2 1/2 years indicates that impaired physicians are found and treated more quickly when legal restrictions against the physicians' licenses are avoided. Of the 117 physicians currently participating in the California Diversion Program, 109 have been able to continue their practice of medicine while undergoing treatment.