Contact your legislators regarding the new bill.

06 Feb 2008 8:04 PM | Tim Livingston (Administrator)

Now is the time for you to contact your legislators regarding the new bill on counselor regulation:

What's happening in the House:

The House Health Care Wellness Committee on February 4 passed out of committee an amended version of HB 2674 with a do pass recommendation. This amended version of the bill undoes all the work of the Department of Health (DOH) Registered Counselor Work Group by completely eliminating the future credential of Certified Counselor. It makes some provision for currently registered counselors to continue in practice, but leaves a very narrow scope and a requirement for supervision instead of consultation. There are assurances from Rep. Green and Rep. Hinkle that they will work to improve the problems of scope and supervision, but the conclusion of the committee is that they want the future of mental health care to be only licensed care. (See below - the story in the Senate is better.)

  1. First step is to call your own representatives. If you don't know who your representatives are, you can find them at <http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/Default.aspx>
    • Tell them that HB 2674 as amended in the Health Care & Wellness Committee does not preserve existing counseling services, and
    • with the elimination of the registered counselor credential in 2010 severely limits future access to care.
    • Ask them to oppose substitute HB 2674 and only support an amended version if it provides a viable scope of practice for the new Certified Counselor credential now and in the future.
    • It must continue the Certified Counselor credential into the future.
    • As in the original version of the bill, there should be a consultation requirement for experienced counselors and a supervision requirement for new counselors coming into this profession.
  2. Next step is e-mail your representatives with the same message. It really helps to do both.  Once you know your representative's first and last name, the e-mail address is easy.  It goes like this with you substituting their actual name for where we've written "lastname" and "firstname" - <lastname.firstname@leg.wa.gov>.
  3. We need to reach every representative - can you call and/or e-mail more? You want to avoid the hotline and call the number that will reach them directly.  Here's the link gives you a list of ALL the representatives in the House <http://apps.leg.wa.gov/memberemail/Default.aspx?Chamber=H>.  Once you are on this page, click the district link to the right of their name.  That will take you to a page that lists both representatives and the senator from that district.  Click on the name of the representative(s), and that will take you to a page that gives you their direct line.
  4. Thank you! Let us know who you called.  E-mail us at <info@waproca.org>, and let us know who you've called/written and what response you've gotten.

What's happening in the Senate:
Just like last year, our biggest supporters are in the Senate.  Senators on both sides of the aisle seem to understand the value of the services provided by Registered Counselors and that would be provided in the future by the new credential of Certified Counselors.  Amendments are being proposed in the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee that would strengthen SB 6456 in our favor.  These amendments will not be proposed and the bill passed out of committee until February 6 or 7 at the latest.  We will try to post an update, but in the meantime please use the information below to track the bill on your own.  You can also join our "newsgroup" - just click in the upper right of the WaProCA home page
<http://www.waproca.org>.

Background:
In 2007 Registered Counselors in private practice joined together, formed an organization, Washington Professional Counselors Association (WaProCA).  WaProCA put a stop to a bill that would have done away with the Registered Counselor credential and not allowed a way forward for those of us who have been RC's in private practice.  It was unacceptable to us and to many legislators to put thousands of counselors out of work - counselors who had been practicing ethically and legally for years.  It was even more unacceptable to eliminate services for Washington citizens at a time when our need for counseling is increasing.

Over the interim WaProCA members served on the Department of Health (DOH) Registered Counselor Work Group.  The Work Group's became the basis for drafting legislation that is currently being considered in both the House (HB 2674) and Senate (SB 6456).  This legislation is "executive request" legislation, meaning it is requested by the Governor, and it is a key part of her health care reform package.  In a Democratically controlled legislature passage of this bill is assured because the number one priority this year is supporting the Governor for reelection.  In this environment we can expect it will be even more difficult to  have our needs and concerns heard and considered.

How to track the bills in progress in the House and Senate:
In a very short legislative session (it will be done March 10), everything moves extremely fast.  We have not written new updates before this point because immediately after we write something, it becomes outdated.  We recommend tracking the progress of both the bills on the legislative website
<http://leg.wa.gov/legislature>.  Click on bill search and enter the number of the bill under search by number.  If you locate one of the bills, its companion bill will be cited as well.

To track what is happening in the committees, click on the link for "Legislative Committees" over on the left hand side and then go to either the Health Care & Wellness Committee in the House or switch over to the Health and Long-Term Care Committee in the Senate.

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