State legislatures across the country have been introducing and passing legislation at a quick pace since many got underway in January. Some states end their sessions in April and have just three months or less to consider and vote on hundreds of bills. This forces lawmakers to determine their priorities very quickly.
COVID-19 and its impacts continue to be the focus of state lawmakers across the country, and many have extended emergency measures that were put in place at this time last year. Telehealth capabilities were expanded for mental health counselors across the country, with well over 30 states waiving some requirements for practice. Many states are considering legislation or rule changes that would either extend or make permanent some of those changes.
Portability of licensure has come into focus for many state legislatures as a result of the pandemic. Prior to 2020, the issue did not command much attention. Now, legislators are eager to promote potability as a way to bolster their mental health workforce. Legislation is being considered in Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and several other states that would expand portability for mental health counselors moving to those states from others. Some are wide-ranging bills that impact several professions, while others are focused solely on mental health counselors.
Trends around telehealth and portability present both opportunities and challenges for the counseling profession. Advocating for the ability of counselors to move freely from state to state without having to spend money or time meeting licensure requirements they already exceed has been a priority for NBCC at the state level for many years. Similarly, we have been pushing for counselors to provide telehealth services in the same ways that other mental health professionals do. However, preserving professional identity and the high standards of the counseling profession must be at the center of these conversations. NBCC is committed to promoting legislative proposals that both preserve educational requirements for counselors as well as expand portability and telehealth opportunities.