Suncoast Mental Health Counselors Association

February 2020 Legislative Update

  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 12:58 AM
    Message # 8755975
    AARON NORTON (Administrator)

    FMHCA Sends Delegation to Tallahassee to Advocate for Licensure Portability

    The delegation visited the offices of every single senator and representative in the State legislature!  Click here to view a graphic synopsis.  

    State Legislation

    Before reading this update, it may be helpful to understand the process that a bill journeys before becoming a law.  There are two chambers of the legislature-the House of Representatives and the Senate.  A bill has to be passed in both houses in order to go before the governor.  The governor then either signs the bill into law or vetoes it.  Prior to passing a bill in either legislate chamber, the bill must be passed by three committees in each chamber.

    • FMHCA has worked very hard to pass a licensure portability bill for Florida.  If enough states pass a similar bill, we can pave a way for an interstate compact so that counselors can very easily be licensed in multiple states.  SB 230/HB 713, an omnibus health department bill that has high expectations of passing this year.  SB 230 has cleared the Appropriations Committee and Health Policy Committee and is expected to be reviewed in the Rules Committee next week before hopefully going to the Senate floor for a vote.  HB 713 has already passed all of its committees and is expected to be voted on the House floor next week.  Similar verbiage appears in SB 782 and HB 1143, so if those bills pass, we will have licensure portability as well!  SB 782 also would require 491 board licensees, including registered interns, to identify their credentials in their professional social media pages.  In October, we published an article in FMHCA’s InSession Magazine on why licensure portability is so important in Florida as well as an overview of the National Counselor Licensure Endorsement Process (NCLEP 2.0), which AMHCA, NBCC, AASCB, and ACES all jointly developed.  Read that article by clicking here.  
    • Some of you may recall that in August 2018 FMHCA warned us about F.S. 456.072(1)(k), which when cross-referenced with F.S. 491.009(1)(w) enables healthcare professionals to be fined and to have their licensed revoked for failing to repay student loans.  HB 115, which would prohibit such actions, has passed in the House!  Its companion bill in the Senate, SB 356, is expected to be voted on by the Senate soon.
    • HB41/SB180 have been filed.  If passed, these bills would prohibit licensed healthcare professions from providing conversion/reparative therapy for minors.  Equality Florida wrote FMHCA and asked for its support of the bill (see their talking points by clicking here).  As President of FMHCA, I wrote a letter clarifying that FMHCA is a chapter of AMHCA (click here to read it), and that AMHCA has an official position opposing reparative therapy (read it here).  I then referred the request for support to the FMHCA Government Relationship Committee (GRC), which reviewed the bill and voted to officially support it.  Read the FMHCA press release by clicking here. We just published an article in FMHCA’s InSession Magazine this month that provides more information about this bill as well as an update on licensure portability and discussion of the issue of the use of the term “psychological” in Florida.  Read it by clicking here.  Unfortunately, there is a great skepticism about whether this bill will pass this year.
    • HB 209 / SB 1084 have been introduced, and if passed they would provide additional regulation regarding emotional support animals (ESAs) and housing.  The bill seems to target some fo the more frivolous cases of clients requesting ESAs while still protecting the rights of clients with legitimate needs for ESAs.  The bill penalizes healthcare professionals (including LMHCs) for writing letters for ESAs for any client for whom the sole interaction between counselor and client is the writing of the letter.  In other words, the bill requires LMHCs to be the treating therapist of the client rather than just someone the client contacts to have a letter written.  HB 209 passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee, the Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee, and the Judiciary Committee.  SB 1084 has passed the Agriculture Committee, and Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee, and now it is up for review by the Rules Committee.  
    • The 491 Board is piloting a new program called "Licensing Lucy," which would enable LMHCs and student/interns to do an automated check to see if they are missing anything in terms of documentation for licensure or renewal.  Stay tuned for an announcement.
    • The Dept. of Health is piloting an artificial intelligence (AI) system that would provide answers to frequently asked questions on the 491 board website.  Right now, the AI technology is being piloted by the pharmacy board.  Stay tuned for updates.  


    Federal Legislation

    • The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (Senate Bill 286 and HR945), which would allow licensed counselors nationwide to bill Medicare, are still both in committee.  AMHCA has called on all licensed counselors to contact their legislators and urge them to support the bill.  Click here for more info on how to help.  The ACA announced that there are now more than 100 co-sponsors of the bill.  NBCC recently announced that they have joined the coalitionand offered a call to action similar to those issued by AMHCA and ACA.
    • NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, has called upon substance abuse counselors to support the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, which "provides state and local governments with $100 billion in federal funding over ten years to expand access to evidence-based treatment and recovery support services. The bill also recognizes the importance of workforce development by authorizing $500 million in workforce development funding for professionals treating substance use disorders."  Click here for more info.
    • The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (HR4194/S2661), which would establish a national hotline for suicide prevention similar to the 911 system, are both still in committee.


    Last modified: Friday, February 21, 2020 1:48 PM | AARON NORTON (Administrator)

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