February 2024 Update

  • Thursday, February 15, 2024 10:25 AM
    Message # 13316009
    Aaron Norton (Administrator)

    Issue #1: Renaming Registered Interns and Interns Needing a Licensed Professional "on the Premises" for Clinical Services

    In our October 2023 Legislative Update, we announced that SB 210 had been filed by Senator Burgess. 

    If passed, this bill will rename "registered mental health counselor interns" as "licensed associate mental health counselors." 

    We believe this title change will (1) contribution to the universalization of counseling terminology, as more states use "licensed associate" verbiage than "intern" verbiage, (2) clear up confusion among the public, allied health practitioners, and legislators who mistakenly believe that registered interns are college students, and (3) render the statute requiring registered interns who work in private practice to have a licensed mental health professional on the premises when providing clinical services (even if those services are delivered via telehealth) obsolete. 

    However, all other requirements for interns remain the same (i.e., must have a qualified supervisor, meet with supervisor at least once every 2 weeks, provide at least 1,500 hours of face-to-face psychotherapy and 100 hours of face-to-face supervision in no less than 100 weeks, etc.). 

    The House version of the bill is HB 287.  The House version of the bill uses the phrase "registered associate" instead of the "licensed associate" verbiage in the Senate bill.  We are not fully certain why Rep. Koster changed the verbiage in her bill, though we have some evidence that consultation with psychologists precipitated the change, and that it may have to do with a fear of what is sometimes referred to as "scope creep" (i.e., a change in scope of practice), though we do not believe that fear is well-founded in this case.  Although the GRC prefers the verbiage in the Senate bill, we believe that the House Bill verbiage is still preferable over the term "intern."  If both bills pass, the difference in verbiage between the two will have to be rectified.  

    Bill Status: HB 287 has passed through all of its committees and has been added to the House calendar for a second reading.  SB 210, however, has not passed its first committee (the Senate Policy Committee).  The GRC has met with various legislatures and and legislative aides and talked to the Staff Director of the Committee.  We have not identified any particular concerns about the bill that could be blocking it, and it is has been suggested that its inaction on the Senate side is due to the large volume of bills the committee must consider and only having so much time to address them.

    Issue #2: Adding 491 Board Licensees to List of Healthcare Professionals the Court Can Appoint as Experts in Criminal Cases

    Currently, F.S. 916.115 reads, "To the extent possible, the appointed experts shall have completed forensic evaluator training approved by the department, and each shall be a psychiatrist, licensed psychologist, or physician."  This requirement applies when the court is appointing experts "to determine the mental condition of a defendant in a criminal case, including competency to proceed, insanity, involuntary placement, and treatment."  We believe this outdated statute (which we believe to have originally been written in 1980, 7 years before Florida started licensing counselors) needs to be updated to include the 491 Board professions, as (1) our scope of practice permits us to diagnose and treat mental disorders, (2) the majority of licensed mental health professionals in Florida are 491 board licensees, (3) there are shortages of forensic mental health experts in some judicial circuits in Florida, and (4) our unique training and expertise can be helpful in the court system.  We are communicating with legislators in an effort to include this statutory update in a criminal justice bill and will apprise members of our progress.

    Status: This issue has not been attached to any bill in the 2024 legislative session.  We hope to address this issue in a future legislative session.

    Other Bills of Importance

    FMHCA's GRC is also monitoring and analyzing the following bills that are relevant to our profession:

    SB 878 /HB 51 Art Therapy

    Bill defining the term “professional art therapist”; requiring the appointment of licensed practicing professional art therapists to the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling; requiring the Department of Health to license professional art therapists and register art therapist interns if they meet specified requirements; requiring the board or department to adopt rules establishing requirements for the annual renewal of professional art therapist licenses and art therapist intern registrations, etc.  This bill is opposed by the Board of Directors of FMHCA because the BOD views art therapy as a specialization for various mental health professionals (i.e., counselors, social workers, MFTs, psychologists, etc.) and not as a distinct and separate profession.  If Florida licenses a speciality area for the first time, then a "slippery slope" could ensue in which other specializations might seek separate licensure (e.g., recreational therapy, DBT, equine therapy, VR therapy, EMDR, etc.).  Questions have also been raised as to whether art therapists have adequate training to have an identical scope of practice as other mental health professionals.

    Protection of Minors on Social Media Platforms

    There are several bills in the Senate and House that, if passed, would restrict access to social media among minors and/or regulate social media companies with respect to measures preventing minors from accessing certain material, including SB 454, HB1, HB3, HB207, SB1430, SB1788, and SB1792.

    SB 66: Naloxone Awareness Day

    Naloxone Awareness Day; Citing this act as “Victoria’s Law”; designating June 6 of each year as “Naloxone Awareness Day”; authorizing the Governor to issue an annual proclamation; encouraging the Department of Health to hold events to raise awareness of the dangers of opioid overdose and the availability and safe use of naloxone as an effective way to rapidly reverse the effects of opioid overdose, etc.

    SB 68: Social Work Licensure Compact

    Social Work Licensure Compact; Creating the Social Work Licensure Compact; specifying requirements for state participation in the compact; requiring member states to designate the categories of social work licensure which are eligible for issuance of a multistate license in such states; establishing the Social Work Licensure Compact Commission; providing for commission enforcement of the compact, etc.

    SB 70: Public Records and Meetings/Social Work Licensure Compact

    Public Records and Meetings/Social Work Licensure Compact; Providing an exemption from public records requirements for certain information held by the Department of Health or the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling pursuant to the Social Work Licensure Compact; authorizing the disclosure of such information under certain circumstances; providing an exemption from public records requirements for recordings, minutes, and records generated during the closed portions of such meetings; providing for future legislative review and repeal of the exemptions; providing statements of public necessity, etc.

    SB 164: Solutions for Mental Health Professional Shortages

    Solutions for Mental Health Professional Shortages; Establishing a mental health profession scholarship and loan forgiveness program within the Department of Health for a specified purpose; providing for applicant eligibility and the award of scholarships; specifying service obligations for scholarship recipients; providing for applicant eligibility and the award of loan repayments, etc.

    SB 252: Psychiatric Treatments

    Psychiatric Treatments; Defining the terms “electroconvulsive treatment” and “psychosurgical procedure”; providing that only a physician may perform electroconvulsive treatment and psychosurgical procedures; prohibiting the performance of electroconvulsive treatment and psychosurgical procedures on minors, etc.

    Medicare Rules Update

    In previous months, we've shared information on counselors, MFTs, and Medicare.  Looking for updated information on how you can opt in or out of Medicare, look up payments, bill for services, etc.?   Check out NBCC's online resources: https://www.nbcc.org/govtaffairs/medicare

    Last modified: Thursday, February 15, 2024 12:57 PM | Aaron Norton (Administrator)

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