FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020
AG, LARA Urge Licensees to Beware of Phishing Emails
Michigan licensees refers to anyone who holds a professional license issued by LARA, such as those under the Public Health Code, the Occupational Code and other relevant statutes.
“Scammers will stop at nothing to cheat someone out of their personal information and hard-earned money,” said Attorney General Nessel. “My office provides a library of resources for Michiganders to ensure they know how to spot and stop attempts to rob them of their personal information. We all must look for warning signs such as misspelled words, unrecognizable email addresses and suspicious links in the emails we receive.”
Attorney General Nessel wants consumers to keep the following in mind:
- Misspelled words or poor grammar in the subject line or body of the email are red flags identifying a scam.
- The name listed on the “from” line is not always an indication of who is emailing you. Pay close attention to the actual email address. If that email address doesn’t match up with what you know to be correct or is abnormally long, it’s likely a phishing scam.
- Always be cautious of any unsolicited requests for any personal information. LARA will not contact you directly asking for personal information.
- Do not respond to, or open hyperlinks in email or text messages about validating your personal data.
Remember: Do not reply to any suspicious emails and never provide personal information. If personal information is compromised, it may be used to commit identity theft or in other fraud schemes.
IMPORTANT MMHCA UPDATE
Since the Michigan Supreme Court issued its ruling on 10/2/2020 striking down the 1945 law which was the basis of the Governor’s declaration of emergency and related executive orders, our authority to do virtual supervision and provide telehealth has been up in the air. MMHCA has been working with both the Governor’s office and the Legislature to seek clarification.
On 10/9/2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new order which rescinds the order previously issued on 10/5/2020 and which is effective through 10/30/2020. The new order is accompanied by a fact sheet which first defines a workplace gathering as follows: “Gathering means any occurrence where two or more persons from more than one household are present in a shared space. Except for incidental gatherings in a shared space, all gatherings must include 6 feet of social distance between households.”
The fact sheet goes on to say: “Workplace gatherings are prohibited under the following circumstances: it is not necessary to perform job duties; employees not wearing face coverings cannot maintain six feet of distance from others; employees not wearing face coverings occupy the same shared space; if they include any person who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who is subject to a CDC recommendation to isolate or quarantine.”
Because both a counseling session and a clinical supervision session can fall under this definition of “gathering”, and the order stipulates that such gatherings are “prohibited if not necessary to perform job duties”, this seems to give us some authority as LPC’s/LLPC’s to continue to provide telehealth and to do supervision remotely.
And while legislation has been passed stipulating that Medicaid will continue to reimburse for telehealth, it is not clear what private insurers will do. SB 898 provides for the following: “If a service is provided through telemedicine under this section, the insurer shall provide the same coverage for that service as if the service involved face-to-face contact between the health care professional and the patient.”
At a hearing on 10/7/2020, MMHCA Past-President Napoleon Harrington provided compelling testimony In support of this bill on behalf of MMHCA. Other groups testified against the bill. There was no vote on the bill, and a subsequent hearing will be held, probably after the election.
MDHHS issues Emergency Order designed to protect the health and safety of all Michiganders
Directive restricts gatherings, requires face coverings, limits bars and other venues
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon today issued an Emergency Order under MCL 333.2253 restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and places limitations on bars and other venues.
The order follows the Michigan Supreme Court decision on Friday, Oct 2, that invalidated COVID-19 related executive orders. Today’s order relies on authorities that were first enacted after the Spanish Flu of 1918, and that were not at issue in the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision.
“When it comes to fighting COVID-19, we are all in this together. We need Michiganders everywhere to do their part by wearing masks and practicing safe physical distancing so we can keep our schools and small businesses open and protect the brave men and women serving on the front lines of this crisis,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “The epidemic order that Director Gordon issued today is an important step to protect Michiganders across the state from the spread of COVID-19. Let’s all mask up and stay safe.”
Under MCL 333.2253, if the MDHHS director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. Gordon shares more about the reasoning behind the order in a recent column.
Violations of this order are punishable by a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than $200, or both. Violations of this order are also punishable by a civil fine of fine of up to $1,000.
“Michigan was hit hard by COVID-19 early in the pandemic,” said Gordon. “Strict preventive measures and the cooperation of Michiganders drove those numbers down dramatically, greatly reducing the loss of life. As we head into flu season, this order is necessary to protect vulnerable individuals, ensure the health care system can provide care for all health issues, keep schools open, and maintain economic recovery.”
Today’s orders largely reinstate, under the department’s authority, three major aspects of prior emergency orders:
- Requirements to wear masks at indoor and outdoor gatherings: The order requires individuals to wear masks when in gatherings, defined as any occurrence where persons from multiple households are present in a shared space in a group of two or more, and requires businesses and government offices to enforce those requirements for gatherings on their premises. The order also requires the wearing of masks at schools, except for in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 6.
- Limitations on the size of gatherings: The order reinstates limitations on gathering sizes that mirror the requirements that Governor Whitmer had previously put in place. These include indoor gatherings of more than 10 and up to 500 people occurring at a non-residential venue are permitted within the following limits:
- In venues with fixed seating, limit attendance to 20% of normal capacity. However, gatherings up to 25% of normal capacity are permitted in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 6.
- In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet in each occupied room. However, gatherings of up to 25 persons per 1,000 square feet are permitted in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 6.
- Non-residential outdoor gatherings of between 100 and 1,000 persons at venues with fixed seating are permitted at up to 30% of normal capacity and at 30 persons per 1,000 square feet at venues without fixed seating.
- Limitations on certain establishments: Although the order does not close bars, it requires them to close indoor common areas where people can congregate, dance or otherwise mingle. Indoor gatherings are prohibited anywhere alcoholic beverages are sold except for table services where parties are separated from one another by at least six feet.
In addition, athletes training or practicing for or competing in an organized sport must wear a facial covering, except when swimming, or consistently maintain six feet of social distance.
Pursuant to MCL 333.2235(1), local health departments are authorized to carry out and enforce the terms of this order. Law enforcement officers, as defined in the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Act, 1965 Public Act 203, MCL 28.602(f), are deemed to be “department representatives” for purposes of enforcing this order, and are specifically authorized to investigate potential violations of this order. They may coordinate as necessary with the appropriate regulatory entity and enforce this order within their jurisdiction.
This order is effective immediately and remains in effect through Friday, Oct. 30. Individuals with suggestions and concerns are invited to submit comments via email to COVID19@michigan.gov.
Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
From MMHCA’s Public Policy Committee: The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on 10/2/2020 that the 1945 Law which gave the Governor the authority to declare a state of emergency and related executive orders was unconstitutional. While it is unclear exactly when this ruling will go into effect, there seems to be bipartisan consensus that it is not yet in effect. It is also highly likely that some provisions of the executive orders will continue under alternative authorities.
While this situation is getting sorted out by lawyers and the courts, MMHCA recommends LPCs continue working as they have been for the last several months (teletherapy if possible, providing supervision virtually, etc.).
MMHCA, due to the strong relationships it has built, is in touch in coordination with our lobbyist, with both the Governor’s office and the legislature, which allows us to be informed at the highest level. Please be assured that MMHCA is closely monitoring the situation and will keep you updated and informed in the most timely manner possible.
This is great news for Counselors in Michigan!
September 24, 2020
Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved S. 785, sending a major VA mental health and counseling bill to President Trump for signature. The bill is the most significant new legislation for the counseling profession in over a decade and a tremendous advancement for mental health counselors working for the federal government, and particularly the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This historic legislation directs the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to create the first ever federal government classification for mental health counselors, referred to as an Occupational Series. The Series will allow counselors to work in federal government agencies under the title of mental health counselor instead of generic Series that apply to many professions. Social workers and psychologists have had their own Occupational Series for decades and it is past time counselors have the same level of recognition. Creation of an Occupational Series for mental health counselors has been a top federal priority for national counseling organizations for many years and is a hard won success.
S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, also takes several steps to increase the hiring, training, and advancement of mental health counselors within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill requires the Comptroller General of the United States to prepare a study on staffing levels of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. The study will identify “impediments to carry out the education, training, and hiring of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists”, as well as a “description of the objectives, goals, and timing of the Department with respect to increasing the representation of such counselors and therapists.” The bill also creates scholarships for counselors interested in working for the VA Readjustment Counseling Program.AMHCA lobbying firm, Bergman Strategies, worked closely with Members and staff from the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees to develop and advance this important legislation. AMHCA was the only counseling organization to help shepherd this bill through both chambers, but partnered with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy / California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.
S. 785 was introduced by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), the Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC). These Senators are long-term champions for increased recognition of mental health counselors, Senator Moran having introduced the original House bill that opened the VA to the profession in 2006. The SVAC passed the bill in December 2019, but the bill really started to gain steam when it passed the Senate on August 5, 2020.
AMHCA and AAMFT/CAMFT lobbyists had been working with the House Veteran Affairs Committee (HVAC) on companion legislation, but efforts intensified after Senate passage. Representative Jahana Hayes (D-CT) introduced H.R. 8145 on September 1, a standalone bill that matched the counselor components in S. 785. The legislation was included in a September 10 hearing and September 17 markup. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA) and his staff showed strong commitment to the counselor legislation and ensured that it was maintained throughout the process.
S. 785 will be sent to President Trump for signature. The legislation requires creation of the counselor Occupational Series within one year from enactment. There is no timeframe for the Comptroller report on VA staffing, but it must be reported to the House and Senate Committees within 90 days of completion.
The passage of legislation to create an Occupational Series for mental health counselors is a tremendous success for the counseling profession and AMHCA is proud to have played such a pivotal role in its achievement. The Series will increase federal government recognition and hiring of mental health counselors. S. 785 will also expand employment and training of mental health counselors within the VA, a long-term priority of the association. AMHCA wants to thank Senators Tester and Moran, as well as Representatives Takano, Brownley, and Hayes for their commitment to this important legislation.