HB1028 & HB1250

Introduced by: The Committee on Health & Human Services at the request of the Board for Counselor Examiners and Marriage and Family Therapists

Here is a link to HB1028

Here is a link to HB1250

LRC Website

An Update from SDCA Addressing Commonly Asked Questions

SDCA would like to provide an update to the proposed legislation House Bill 1028. The SD Board of Counselor Examiners has provided additional information that we would like to pass on to you. It is our goal to provide you with the most up to date, factual information.
Concern/Question: All rules of licensure are covered in HB1028 aka: it is not specific enough.
Answer: Updating Legislation is a 2 step process. First you create a bill (eg. HB1028) that sets minimum guidelines. Then, if that Bill passes, you create what are called "Administrative Rules" that give the specifics (eg. which test(s) are specifically required for which levels of Licensure, (“Type” of Supervision, etc.). HB1028 is proposed legislation which provides the "bones"  or outline of counseling licensure. Actual Administrative Rules will be created by the SD Board of Counselor Examiners, which provides exact specifics "meat" of what counseling applicants need to have in order to be licensed in SD. After the legislation goes though, the board can focus on the Administrative Rules, which will be done with input from stakeholders. 
Concern/Question: HB1028 is no longer moving forward.
Answer: House Bill 1028 has been split into two bills:  HB1250 address updates and changes to the marriage and family therapists chapter and another to address updates and HB 1028 will address changes to the professional counselors/professional counselors-MH chapter.  The legislator hopes this will allow for easier reading of the bills and better discussions on each chapter.  
 

Concerns“We can’t say someone has good moral character if they have a Felony.” “We shouldn’t be allowing someone with a Felony to help someone else with a Felony.” “How will the board determine which Felonies can be considered?” “Wouldn’t a felony indicate a lack of “good moral character”

Answer: As counselors, we should not be  making the assumption that all people with felonies lack good moral character,nor, are we generalizing to that degree and making judgements about people who have made mistakes in their distant past without at least considering the circumstances. To make this clear, the board is NOT loosely allowing all individuals with a criminal history to be allowed to have a license in South Dakota. They are asking for the option to make the consideration based on research into the circumstances that the person was involved in. This individual could be considered by the board for licensure on the entirety of their life/career; not one moment in time.  For example: A 20 year old individual charged as a young adult for a financial crime (Felony embezzlement of $500) and they turned his/her life around and at 40 years old, is apply to be a counselor.  As it stands now, the board is not able to even consider the candidate. This has only given the board the option to consider giving them a license. Jennifer Stalley has made it clear that the purpose of the board is to ensure the safety of the public from harm - by counselors. Please contact her at  605-224-1721 for more details on how they would make this determination from case to case.

 

Concern: All LPCs will be grandfathered in without having to complete the same requirements of the current LPC-MHs

Answer:  The Board intends to offer an amendment to section 53 (LPC grandfathering criteria) to require that an LPC be licensed for at least 4 years AND pass the national clinical examination. The examination that will be required will be specified in Administrative Rule and will be the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam as currently required for an LPC-MH license. The exact wording is under review, but at a minimum that change will be offered. On average, it takes 12-18 months of working as an LPC to get your MH. This standard will require a minimum of 4 years AND the clinical exam.

On a practical level, all LPC’s who wish to move to an LPC-MH will be counselors who have completed a Master’s Degree with required field work (practicum/internship), a passing score on both the NCE and the NCMHCE, 2000 hours of supervised practice and an additional 4 years of practice. On average, this is approximately 2-3 years more time spent in the field then someone who has just received their LPC-MH in the current code.

 

Concern: "There will be an influx of LPCs who leave their current place of employment and open Private Practices."

Answer: This is not a change. Currently, LPC’s are able to operate in a private practice setting and do so across the state. In July 2018, LPC’s working toward a mental health designation were granted the ability to bill South Dakota Medicaid for services rendered,  which made the prospect of having a successful Private Practice even more desirable, however that did not happen. There has been no influx of LPCs going this direction. The board has received no information to support this statement. Many LPC’s have, however contacted the Board to express their desire to keep their LPC and not move to the LPC-MH level. For those counselors who are in Private Practice, they are well aware that there are Pros and Cons to this choice also and that opening a business is a task that many people do not desire to take on. Should the Licensing Requirements change, South Dakota could now be assured that our qualified LPCs will be even more qualified by demonstrating they have solid clinical skills because they have passed the NCMHCE. The goal would be to bring all practicing clinical staff up to the same level, NOT to bring standards down.

On this same note, whether a clinician is practicing in Private Practice or elsewhere, they are still serving people in need and if competition is a concern, we need to provide more education on the extreme under-served nature of services in our state. The need is, unfortunately, very high in South Dakota and with the approval of Telehealth services, this is also not limited by geographic location throughout the state.

 

Concerns: Counselor will now be doing diagnostic evaluations and chemical dependency assessments they are not qualified to do.

Answer: If ANY counselor at ANY level is completing assessment or diagnosing without the proper training, including the educational components required, they are practicing out of their scope of practice and this is a violation of legal and ethical requirements.

Concern: These new standards will make portability impossible for counselors moving out of state.

Answer: The current proposal states an LPC-MH must complete 1700 hours of direct service time under supervision. In the 2+ years the Board has been working on this update, they have researched other state requirements to ensure South Dakota stays competitive and have also spoken with The National Board of Certified Counselors  (NBCC) who have given South Dakota their endorsement for these changes.


Concern: Counselors in training no longer have to do their paperwork (Indirect Service Hours)

Answer: This is not the case. In order to be approved for a plan of supervision, an applicant must be supervised under an “approved supervisor” who meets the designated standards for being a supervisor. One of the requirements of the supervisor is to ensure all counselors working under their license are following the industry standards and the ACA Code of Ethics which both have very specific rules regarding what is required for timely and accurate documentation, training, practicing within your scope, etc. This would not change, it would just be designated as the responsibility of the Approved Supervisor to ensure their supervisee is following the professional code.

In the Administrative Rules, it could lay out how this will be tracked, what type of documentation will be sufficient, what counts as indirect service, etc. The board looks forward to further discussions about how this might look.

 

Concern: These new standards are far below the standards of our neighboring states.

Answer: with the new law…

South Dakota would require 1700 direct service hours and both the NCE & the NCMHCE

Minnesota requires 1800 direct service hours and both the NCE & the NCMHCE

Nebraska requires 1500 direct service hours and either the NCE or the NCMHCE (their choice)

Iowa requires 1500 direct service hours and either the NCE or the NCMHCE (their choice)

North Dakota requires 3000 total hours of which can be either direct or indirect and both tests

Montana requires 1500 direct service hours and only the NCE

Wyoming requires 1200 direct service hours with no testing requirements designated


In the 2+ years the Board has been working on this update, they have researched other state requirements to ensure South Dakota stays competitive and have also spoken with The National Board of Certified Counselors who have given South Dakota their endorsement for these changes.


If you are interested in see the state requirements across all of the US, links can be found on the ACA Website or at this address: https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/licensure-requirements/state-professional-counselor-licensure-boards


Concern: These changes drastically lower South Dakota's Licensing standards.

Answer: These changes increased the educational requirement from 48 to 60. Some misunderstanding here is the connection to CACREP Accreditation. CACREP is requiring the 60 credit program be implemented in all schools by July 1, 2020. See more information here: CACREP Special Announcement.

The direct service hours are being reduced by 300. In perspective, a counselor has already completed an additional 450 clock hours of graduate level work and 85% of the current standard. The comments made involved concerns that at that level, a counselor is unqualified and at risk of engaging in unethical practice. The board is confident that by this point in the counselors training and supervision process, there is little risk of these dire consequences.

It is important to note that LMFT’s are considered highly qualified licensed therapists in South Dakota and an equal level of licensure to an LPH-MH. This is why the board chose 1700 direct service hours for the number of hours to be required for an LPC-MH. This is the current requirement for an LMFT. The other option was to raise the LMFT’s to 2000 to match the LPC-MH requirements, however after reviewing the number of hours a clinician has already completed through internship and their LPC, they felt LMFT’s are highly qualified individuals and matched LPC-MH’s to this standard of care.


Concern: The board is doing all of this without consulting licensees.

Answer: The Board appreciates the comments and feedback. Part of the changes the Board is proposing would lead to an electronic database that would allow the Board to communicate directly with licensees. Right now, the Board does not have the capabilities to send mass emails and the timeline for legislative proposals is too tight to make paper mailings an effective tool. To date, the Board has had to rely on professional associations and partners to communicate their plans and unfortunately, not all licensee’s are a part of their respective associations. As a licensee, however, all board information and meeting minutes are posted on the board website and so all information to date has been available to all current licensees.

Jennifer Stalley, Executive Secretary of the SD Board of Counselor Examiners welcomes your phone calls. She is aware that legal processes such as these can be confusing and sometimes misunderstood and is happy to provide answers to all questions that arise. She can be reached at the office at 605-224-1721 and even after hours at 605-280-5714.

 

Concern: There is very little I can do to help move this code update forward.

Answer: We need all licensees to help support the first update of the counseling code in 20+ years. Please reach out to your elected leaders in the house and senate to keep things moving forward. Use your voice to educate them on what Counseling is and what our clients need.

 

Find a link to your representative Here

And please remember that, you do not have to take a dichotomous stand for or against this bill. You are welcome to share both the items you like and agree with and also the items you feel need to be looked at closer.

The South Dakota Counseling Association is here to listen, hear all counselor feedback and respects all opinions both proponent and opponents. This measure is about bringing counselors together, expanding our profession, having a larger voice across the state, and being able to service more people in need.