The LPC Michigan Miracle of 2019 How MMHCA made it happen!

The LPC Michigan Miracle of 2019

How MMHCA made it happen!

By James Blundo, MA, LPC, MMHCA Executive Director 

Michigan has a new law that protects and strengthens our LPC license.

House Bill 4325 passed both the Michigan House and Senate by 100% of the legislators and was signed into law by the Governor on October 29th as Public Act 96 of 2019.

When we found out that the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) decided to alter our Scope of Practice without the approval of the Board of Counseling, by moving diagnosis, testing and other measures into an educational category, we acted to quickly to mobilize the 10,000 LLPC/LPC’s into action to block the administrative changes that would have likely gone into effect in November of this year and restricted the ability to practice.

Last year we had already moved to introduce a bill to codify diagnosis, and other elements within the Scope of Practice into law. It passed in the Legislature but was blocked on the last day of the 2018 “Lame Duck Session”.

This year we were able to get the bill reintroduced thanks to our very effective Lobbyist firm. MMHCA met with LARA, the Michigan Psychological Association (MPA), and other professional groups who strongly objected to this legislation. The strongest opposition came from MPA with the biggest issue centering around our ability to diagnose.

Then we realized that if LARA was able to make the rule changes before the bill was passed, our profession would be grossly restricted.

The Chronology of our Actions

  • March 2019 the House Bill 4325 was introduced by Representative Aaron Miller. Opposition came from The Michigan Psychological Association (MPA) and LARA regarding the LPCs Scope of Practice.
  • In June of 2019 LARA met with the Board of Counseling (BOC). After this meeting MMHCA was informed that LARA planned to make administrative rule changes to our scope of practice. They put this in writing.
  • During our negotiations with LARA they said they intended to make their administrative changes take effect and not wait for HB 4325 to pass.
  • In July of 2019 we organized LPS to oppose LARAs proposed changes.
  • In August of 2019 our Public Policy committee met with LARA and MPA to try to negotiate the Scope of Work language. These negotiations lasted until the passage of HB 4325 in the Michigan House of Representatives.
  • LARA scheduled a one-time hearing for comments about their proposed changes. In response we organized a social media response.
  • In September of 2019 MMHCA ramped up our social media presence further creating a grass roots effort that set records in Michigan legislation.
  • We were very effective with the use of social media.
  • We created a petition to support our cause using change.org. 54,000 individuals signed the petition within a month.
  • We created an independent Facebook site over and above our MMHCA site, with the new site developing into 7,000 members. Our social media committee provided accurate information and were diligent in refuting any misinformation.
  • On October 4, 2019 we requested that all counselors attend the LARA public hearing to provide testimony refuting the changes that LARA proposed. 2,000 LPCs came to personally testify. The testimonies lasted from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Another 7,000 LPCs sent their testimony via email. This was the largest response ever experienced by LARA in their history.
  • We organized a campaign to move our bill through the legislature before LAR A’s November deadline. House and Senate members were encouraged by LPCs to vote in favor of HB 4325. This campaign was powerful, quick and impactful.
  • We helped to script what LPCs should say. Legislators were inundated with voicemail and email messages. Some legislators commented that they had received 1,700 emails.
  • Our lobbyist was able to arrange hearings in the Health Policy Committee of the House of Representatives. This resulted in a unanimous vote of approval.
  • The MPA worked very hard to block us, delay us, object to our testimony despite the outpouring of support from LPCs.
  • Our case was based on facts. The opposition was not. But rather based on unsubstantiated opinions and misinformation.

The Chronology of Success

House Health Policy Committee            September 19, 2019  Unanimous vote in favor

House Ways and Means Committee     October 08, 2019  Unanimous vote in favor

Full House                                                  October 08, 2019  Unanimous vote in favor

Senate Health Policy Committee           October 16, 2019  Unanimous vote in favor

Full Senate                                                 October 17, 2019  Unanimous vote in favor

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed our bill into law on October 29, 2019.

The grass roots effort set a Legislative record!

The law is now Public Act 96 of 2019

Michigan mental-health counselors applaud unanimous, bi-partisan support as licensing bill signed into law

 

 

 

LANSING, Mich., October 29, 2019 – Michigan mental health counselors applauded as House Bill 4325 sponsored by Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) was signed into law today by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  Now Public Act 96 of 2019, the new law ensures Michigan’s licensed professional counselors (LPCs) can continue to provide treatment to hundreds of thousands of residents in need.

“This new law will ensure that more than 150,000 Michiganders can still access critical mental health care,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “And it will protect 10,000 professional counselors from losing the ability to practice as they currently do. We must continue to work hard to ensure every Michigander has access to critical mental health care, and this is a step in the right direction.”

According to the Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association (MMHCA), the passage of HB 4325 was a critical priority for counselors across the state as the legislation negated rule changes formally proposed by the Department of Licensing and Regulation (LARA) this summer.  Those changes would have effectively prohibited Michigan’s counselors from practicing.

“Michigan, like many other states, has a mental health crisis.  There simply aren’t enough counselors and other mental health professionals to meet the growing demand for services,” said MMHCA Executive Director Jim Blundo.  “Rep. Miller’s common-sense legislation provided a solution to the state’s concerns that avoided causing harm to the counseling profession and those in need of mental health treatment.”

MMHCA led the statewide grassroots advocacy efforts on HB 4325 that included thousands of emails, calls and social media contacts with state legislators and a 1,500-person rally at the rules public hearing.  Several hundred LPCs also spoke out at the legislative committee hearings and attended House and Senate session votes on the bill.  The well-coordinated effort is credited for the legislation’s swift and unanimous bipartisan approval in both the state House and Senate.

“LPCs are the frontline of mental health care in our state and their passion for what they do led them to the front line of advocacy on this issue,” said Rep. Miller.  “Along the way they become a very powerful voice and demonstrated to Lansing, our state and our country how grassroots advocacy is done.”

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Opening for a Family Therapist/Counselor in Three Oaks, MI

The River Valley School District Board of Education currently has a vacancy for a Family Therapist/Counselor.

For information please contact:

William J. Kearney, Superintendent

River Valley School District

15480 Three Oaks Road

Three Oaks, MI  49128

Phone: 269-756-7675     Fax: 269-756-6631

PA 96 (formerly HB 4325) Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

 

Living document prepared and kept current for MMHCA by:

Dr. Sue Schaeffer,Co-Chair of MMHCA Public Policy Committee, Author of PA 96

Dr. Irene Ametrano, Co-Chair of MMHCA Public Policy Committee, Author of PA 96

James Blundo, LPC, MMHCA Executive Director

Napoleon Harrington, LPC, MMHCA President

Andrea Cascarilla, Legislative Director for Acuitas (Government relations firm employed by MMHCA)

NOTE:   PA 96 of 2019 is not the entire counseling licensure law.   It only represents the parts of the current law that have been changed.  The current law is Part 181 Counseling (Sec. 333.18101 – 333.18117) of the Public Health Code.  In the responses below, any references to a section that does not appear in PA 96 can be found in Part 181 of the Michigan Public Health Code.

Link to Part 181 of the MI Public Health Code

Please read PA 96 for more information.   Link to PA 96

 

Link to PA 96 (formerly HB 4325) Frequently Asked Questions