November 2021 Legislative Update

  • Tuesday, November 09, 2021 12:11 AM
    Message # 12112090
    Aaron Norton (Administrator)

    State Legislation

    To review a full report on the 2021-2022 legislative priorities for the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (including background and rationale for each priority), click here.  

    Licensure Portability

    SB 358 has been filed in the Florida Senate.  If passed and written into law, this bill will add Florida to the Counseling Compact.  Essentially, passage of this bill would allow LMHCs in Florida to apply for an "interstate license" that would enable them to practice in all other states that join the compact, whether providing in-person or telehealth sessions to clients in those states.  This would mean, for example, that a LMHC in Florida would not need to get a license in Georgia in order to provide counseling to clients located in Georgia.  Georgia and Maryland are already part of the compact, and legislation is pending in Nebraska, Ohio, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  Read more about the Counseling Compact by clicking here.  

    SB 358 has already cleared its first committee, Health Policy, and our parent chapter, the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association, is now looking for a House sponsor.   FMHCA is also hoping to add to the bill a provision that revises F.S. 916.115 to include LMHCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs in the list of mental health professionals courts can appoint as expert witnesses

    Additionally, FMHCA is working with legislators to determine whether this bill might also be amended to replace the term "registered mental health counselor intern" with the term "licensed associate mental health counselor," which would make Florida more consistent with most other states and make it easier for legislators, clients, and other healthcare professionals to differentiate "registered interns" from college students who are also "interns."  Such a verbiage change may also better enable registered interns to be paneled by insurance companies.  

    Licensure Requirements

    If passed, SB 566 would postpone the requirement for LMFT applicants to have a master's degree accredited by COAMFTE or CACREP from 7/1/25 (the current effective date) to 9/1/27, giving graduate programs more time to achieve accreditation.   FMHCA has been contacted by a legislator who has an interest in extending the deadline for LMHC applicants to have a CACREP-accredited degree to 9/1/27 as well, and the prospect of requesting a related amendment to this bill is currently being discussed. 

    Registered Interns, Telehealth, and Private Practice

    F.S. 491.005(1)(c) currently requires registered interns working in private practice settings to have a licensed mental health professional "on the premises" when conducting clinical services.  This statute is problematic for a couple reasons, the most notable of which involves telehealth.  Many interns in private practice would like to provide telehealth from home offices, where they would not have a licensed mental health professional on the premises.  If passed, SB 768 will add the following line to the statute: "When a registered intern provides clinical services through telehealth, a licensed mental health professional must be accessible by telephone or electronic means," effectively making it easier for interns in private practice to conduct telehealth.

    "Audio-Only" Telehealth Appointments

    If passed, SB 312 will expand the definition of "telehealth" to include "audio-only" sessions, whereas the current definition requires both video and audio.  It is my understanding that such a revision in the law would enable counselors to bill Medicaid for audio-only telehealth appointments.  

    Federal Legislation

    Medicare for Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

    As noted in previous legislative updates, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S.828 and companion bill HR.432), if passed, will enable counselors and MFTs to bill Medicare.  We consider this bill crucial given that (a) Medicare recipients are struggling to access psychotherapy, and counselors are the single largest group of licensed therapists in the country; and (b) as long as counselors cannot bill Medicare, counselors will never truly be treated equally as our colleagues in psychology and social work, thus perpetuating the myth that counselors are somehow "less than" other professions that can bill Medicare.  Click here to learn more from our national parent chapter, the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), about how you can support this legislation.  

SunCoast Mental Health Counselors Association

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