Michigan mental-health counselors get final OK of bill that allows them to keep practicing – Detroit Free Press

Posted: October 17, 2019 at 6:49 pm

This post was added by Alex Diaz-Granados

A grassroots effort by licensed professional counselors prodded the Legislature to fast-track a bill to stop rule changes that govern the profession. Detroit Free Press

A bill that would allow licensed professional counselors to continue to diagnose and treat mental-health patients passed with unanimous support in the state Senate Thursday and is headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is expected to sign it into law.

The bill and its swift passage were theresult of a concerted push by the counselors, who provide services to some 150,000 people,to stop rules proposed by the state Department of Licensing and Regulation that would have impacted the counselors ability to officially diagnose and treat patients.

The Michigan Capitol building in Lansing on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019.(Photo: Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press)

The counselors rallied at the Capitol several times, flooded lawmakers offices with phone calls, e-mails and letters and testified in mass at hearings on the matter. The campaign to stop the rules worked. The legislation was fast-tracked in the Legislature and passed unanimously in both the House and Senate.

More: Counselors mobilize in Lansing to stop new rules that would affect their practices

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When the measure received final passage Thursday, counselors who filled the gallery above the Senate chamber stood and cheered.

LARA was attempting to update the rules on roughly 10,000 licensed professional counselors in the state.

The current rules were very outdated, state regulatory officials said, and needed to be updated to comply with current state law. The new rules would have taken counselors' ability to diagnose patients and use certain treatment methods, such as psychotherapy.The Michigan Psychiatric Society agreed and opposed the legislation.

But counselors said that the new rules would put them out of business, leaving thousands of people without mental-health care and limit their ability to get reimbursed by insurance companies for their services.

When counselors can't see their clients, a lot of bad things are going to happen, said Richard Lieske, a counselor from Okemos.

Sara Sue Schaeffer, a counselor from Sturgis and the public policy head of the Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association, said the new rule would have put counselors out of business.

The Legislature tried to pass similar legislation last year, but the issue died without a vote on the last day of the lame-duck session in 2018. When LARA held a public hearing on the new rules last month, the legislation that would halt them was put on a fast track.

And Whitmer supports the legislation HB 4325.

Licensed professional counselors play an integral role in the mental-health services system, said Tiffany Brown, spokeswoman for Whitmer. The administration would support legislation to broaden LPCs scope of practice.

Contact Kathleen Gray: kgray99@freepress.com or on Twitter @michpoligal

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Michigan mental-health counselors get final OK of bill that allows them to keep practicing - Detroit Free Press

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