Please Sponsor New Legislation

January 29, 2015 02:16 PM

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing to you as a means of gaining support for the three pieces of proposed legislation explained below. As Licensed Mental Health Counselors, it is our duty to protect our clients and provide the most comprehensive treatment possible. In keeping with that goal, we have proposed legislation that could assist us in providing more comprehensive care. I ask that you cosponsor the bills that Representative Josh Cutler (D – Duxbury) has sponsored.

HD867- An Act relative to expanding access and safety of mental health services - Sponsored by Rep. Josh Cutler

This Act will expand legislation to include Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) as a list of providers who would be allowed to admit their clients, of whom they are in a therapeutic treatment relationship with, to the hospital on an involuntary basis, for up to three days, if the LMHC deems the client an immediate threat to oneself or others. This is considered “Section 12” within the counseling field. This act would also expand legislation to include LMHC’s as a listed provider for “Section 35.” This is similar to Section 12, but is related solely to substance abuse. HD867 also includes Section 22 which would provide immunity from law suits submitted against any LMHC who has exercised Section 12 or 35 for their client.

Chapter 123, section 12, 22 and 35 includes Psychiatrists, Psychiatric Nurses, Psychologists, Social Workers and Police officers. Licensed Mental Health Counselors have similar to greater training in being able to assess, diagnose and treatment mental illness and substance abuse. All LMHC’s have a full scope of practice and work in hospitals and private practices where safety is of the upmost importance. By allowing LMHC’s the same privileges that others within the behavioral health community have safety for consumers and overall safety in the community will be optimized. M

HD1919 - An Act establishing a behavioral health workforce development trust fund -  Sponsored by Rep. Josh Cutler

It is well documented that a supervised placement is difficult to find, and that in some instances when found, supervision is not provided consistently when working in an agency. (see reports of unsupervised behavioral workforce incidents in the last 2 years).

Long hours and immense caseloads, and financial pressure on agencies, lead to diminished resources for appropriate supervision, putting clients at risk, and individuals in training at risk in getting the proper supervision mandated by  licensing boards (Board of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions).

There are approximately 5500 LMHCs licensed in in Massachusetts today. By statute and regulation, all LMHCs must have a Practicum and Internship, with 100 hours of clinical supervision and 2 year’s Post Master’s work experience in an agency with 960 hours of direct service and another 100 hours of clinical Supervision. In all cases there must be one hour of supervision for every 16 client-contact hours (1:16).Currently, the Allied Board of Mental Health and Human Services Professions estimated that 350-400 LMHC licenses get issued every year.  There are 20 graduate programs in MA that have mental health counseling programs.  We estimate that at a minimum between 400 – 450 individuals in the LMHC track need supervision each year just to obtain a license.  In 2010, in conjunction with the BCBSMA Foundation study on access to children’s mental health services, agencies in central MA determined that it cost between $3500-$4000 to train and supervise 1 Intern or Post-MA individual per year. The estimated yearly cost to supervise the cadre of individuals seeking LMHC licensure becomes $1,600,000.Anecdotally, NASW-MA, reports that approximately 400 individuals seek the LICSW license yearly, with similar expenses.

HD2803 - An Act relative to funding the Behavioral Health Workforce Development Trust Fund - Sponsored by Rep. Josh Cutler

This proposed legislation funds HD1919 in the same way in which other Workforce Trust funds are funded. This legislation would pull 10% from the Workforce Transformation Fund (Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012). The Healthcare Workforce Transformation Fund is funded in this way, but does not include behavioral health providers. These Transformation Funds were created to establish tuition reimbursement grants to assist those working in impoverished areas. This funding would expand the fund to also include supervision grants. In doing so, agencies would be better able to accommodate counseling and psychology students in need of a supervised internship.

I ask that you please cosponsor the bills that Representative Josh Cutler has sponsored as outlined above. The LMHC community consists of over 5,000 practicing professionals and graduates around 300 more a year. We are all in agreement that this legislation makes sense and is right for the profession and community safety. We ask that you consider cosponsoring HD867, HD2803 and HD1919 to improve the wellbeing of all counseling and behavioral health consumers.

Joe Weeks, LMHC

Public Policy Director, MaMHCA

 

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