In recent years, some state legislatures have proposed eliminating state licensure boards for counseling and others professions. Dave Bergman, NBCC’s Vice President for Legal and External Affairs, and Mary Alice Olsan, NBCC’s Director of Strategy and Special Projects, explain more about deregulation efforts and why they would endanger the counseling profession and the public.
How common are these deregulation efforts and why are they being proposed?
Attempts to deregulate the counseling profession and other licensed professionals can be traced to politicians who espouse the need to reduce the size of government, the number of regulations, and state costs. But the concept that eliminating state licensure boards reduces costs is false because many state licensure boards are self-sustaining (meaning they pay for themselves), and even if government could find a way to save money under deregulation, consumers would bear the costs of decreased access and quality of care.
Could deregulation harm efforts to grow the profession?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) projected in a 2016 report that by 2025, the U.S. would have to add 10,000 professionals in each of seven mental health professions, including counseling, to meet demand. HHS also reports that 60 percent of rural Americans live in a mental health provider shortage area. Statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), meanwhile, show that millions of Americans of all ages are diagnosed with mental health or behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression, and substance use never receive treatment. In other words, it would not be smart to do anything that would reduce the number of counselors or discourage more students from becoming counselors.
What other implications are there with this kind of deregulation mentality?
For one thing, insurance companies require licensure in order for professionals to be reimbursed. So deregulation measures have dangerous implications. The public has a right to know that they are being served by licensed counselors, which ensures they are being seen by specialists who have met standards of education, training, and experience.
How does the NBCC get involved when a bill is proposed?
The NBCC works closely with state boards and state counseling organizations when battling specific proposals, as happened last year in Iowa and this year in Arizona (both proposals failed to make it out of committee). Through its Grassroots Action Center, the NBCC has offered counselors a simple tool to communicate with their state and federal legislators on key issues such as deregulation via email and advocate on behalf of the counseling profession.
This Q&A originally appeared on NBCC's LinkedIn page, written by Les Gura, the NBCC Communications Manager.
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