Mental Health Counselors Applaud State House Panel Approval of Legislation Negating Harmful LARA Rules
Lansing, Mich. – Mental health counselors are breathing a small sigh of relief as the 19 members of Michigan’s House Health Policy Committee all voted to advance House Bill 4325 to nullify the need for proposed department rule changes severely limiting the scope of work and ability to practice for the state’s 10,000 licensed professional counselors.
“At a time when there is a growing demand for the mental health services offered by counselors, we are grateful that our elected officials recognize this need and stand behind us,” said Jim Blundo, Executive Director of the Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association.
This summer the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) submitted proposed rule changes for licensed professional counselors (LPC) that will have significant consequences on the counseling profession, the workforce in Michigan’s public mental health system, and the 150,000 individuals with mental health challenges they serve. A required Regulatory Impact Statement was filed in late August setting the stage for the rules to advance after a scheduled October 4 public hearing.
The controversial rules proposal is now being challenged by House Bill 4325, a bill introduced by State Representative Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) to codify long-standing rules governing LPC’s scope of practice and counselor supervision. This codification of rules into statute allows counselors to continue to practice as they have for more than 30 years and negates the need for LARA’s suggested changes. The bill makes other first-time technical updates to the 1988 licensing law.
Several mental health organizations filed their support for the bill including the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, Michigan Primary Care Association, Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association, Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals and National Association of Social Workers.
“Michigan cannot afford to lose mental health support,” said Napoleon Harrington, President of the Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association. “If the LARA rule changes are approved, Michigan would lose about 30% of their community mental health system workforce.”
Despite the unanimous objections of the Board of Counseling, LARA recommended the repeal of virtually all the rules that define an LPC’s scope of practice and insisted that these definitions should apply only to the educational preparation of counselors and not to counseling practice.
Included in the proposed repeal was the practice of “counseling techniques” and the related ability to “diagnose and identify the problem”. Without these and numerous other definitions, the counseling scope of practice would be severely limited and would put Michigan’s LPCs in violation of their professional code of ethics and other state laws, thereby subjecting them to permanent expulsion from the profession.
Insurance companies would also likely stop reimbursing LPCs for their services due to the significant limits on scope these rule changes would impose. A diagnosis is required for insurance reimbursement.
The bill is now before the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration before going to the full House of Representatives.