After Sunset: Still Work To Do

Last week the Texas legislature ended its special session and voted to extend the life of the Texas LPC/LMFT boards. By extending Sunset two more years, the boards got some time to reorganize, fix some problems, and prepare for the next Sunset review in 2019.

As this process has unfolded I have noticed confusion and agitation among the affected mental health professionals. I have heard the arguments for and against organizing a special Behavioral Health Advisory Board and I have seen the posts in social media about what is really ‘good for us’ as licensed mental health practitioners in Texas. Rather than tackle this issue myself, I have invited someone more knowledgable to write the blog this week.

Katherine Bacon Ph.D., LPC-S, NCC is an assistant professor of counselor educationinternship coordinator for graduate counseling students, project director for experiential earning in integrated behavioral health, project director for CMHC scholarship for disadvantaged students, and she is the legislative liaison for the Texas Counseling Association. August 4, 2017 Dr. Bacon testified at the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearings. She spoke eloquently about our current situation and what still needs to be done. Please read her comments below and see why TCA and TACES are so passionate about the work ahead of us.

My name is Dr. Katherine Bacon. I am testifying in support of SB 114 on behalf of the Texas Counseling Association.  In consideration of the committee’s time, I will be the only person testifying on behalf of the 7,000 members of TCA. 

Thank you for this opportunity and for your work on this committee.

As a mental health counselor and business owner, I know the impact of the delays to licensure due to our current system.

So although, I have been able to bring over 3.5 million dollars into Texas to train mental health counselors to work with Veterans and to address the mental health workforce shortage; it’s been difficult for these new counselors to get to work due to the limitations of the board because they are housed at the Department of State Health Services. Staff shortages, the inability to hire or fire staff, and the low priority of regulation within the DSHS mission, all contribute to those challenges.

As the TCA volunteer liaison to the LPC board, I have been attending LPC Board and Committee meetings for at least six years. I observe the diligent efforts of the Board to manage regulation of the more than 22,000 Licensed Professional Counselors in Texas without an adequate infrastructure to support their work.

Without SB 114, these challenges will persist for at least another two years for all licensing boards. Simply extending their sunset date to 2019 will cause Texas to lose momentum

This is why we support SB 114.

This model allows each licensing board to develop substantive rules on standards of care, licensure, educational requirements and disciplinary guidelines for their respective professions.  This model would NOT allow the Executive Council or any mental health licensing board to impose standards or modify the scope of practice for any other profession.

SB 114 will not change the composition of any of the licensing boards.  It will simply allow for consistency in administration for all mental health boards. It will create a one-stop shop for those who hold dual licenses.  It will make it easy for the public to know where to go to find a licensed mental health professional or to file a complaint against one.

I chose a career in mental health because Texas was on the cutting edge. We need to act now, we can’t wait two more years, SB 114 creates the opportunity for Texas to establish a model that will create unity across all mental health professionals. This unity will enhance the delivery of mental health services in Texas.

Thank you.

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