Ohio Psychologists Rally to Save Licensing Board (for now)

By John Thomas, Associate Editor
January 22, 2017

state board of psychology - ohioA massive outpouring of opposition by Ohio psychologists and other mental health professionals blocked an attempt to eliminate the State Board of Psychology and other licensing boards and create a new licensing structure during a December lame duck session of the state legislature.

The proposal to eliminate several licensing boards dealing with mental health issues and creation of a new single licensing board was introduced without warning or discussion with any of the boards involved.

The proposal called for creation of a seven-member State Behavioral Health Professionals Board to replace the State Board of Psychology; Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board and Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board. Each profession would have a seat on the proposed new board, which also included a public member.

In all the legislation called for a massive overhaul of professional licensing in Ohio by abolishing 11 licensing boards and consolidating them under three new boards and two existing ones. The entities proposed to be moved to the Behavioral Health Professionals Board have a total of nearly 48,000 licensed professionals, including 3,500 psychologists.

The outpouring of opposition was quick and decisive. Just one hearing, for proponents, was held on the legislation before it was withdrawn.

Only one state, Kansas, currently has such a board, although other states have experimented with the concept, but later abandoned such efforts.

The same groups who successfully derailed the legislation in December are expecting the same bills to be introduced early in the 2017-2018 legislative session that began in January. There is some worry that the bills will be made part of the two-year budget bill that will be introduced early in the session, a move that would make it more difficult to defeat.

The state cited the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners, which held that the board violated the nation’s antitrust laws because the members of the all-dentist board were active participants in the profession they regulated. The board had attempted to stop teeth-whitening activities by non-dentists.

“Due to this federal ruling and Ohio’s current medical professional licensing board structure, our state is vulnerable to costly legal challenge that could jeopardize the licensing and regulation of Ohio’s medical professionals,” the state said. To help avoid violating antitrust laws, the bills called for one of the state’s departments to approve or disapprove any new regulations to insure no antitrust laws were being broken.

The state also claimed that restructuring all licensing boards would save money, a claim that was challenged since the boards are self-supporting through the fees for licenses.

Ken Drude, Ph.D., the immediate past president of the Ohio Board of Psychology, said there are three vacancies on the nine-member board and he doesn’t expect any appointments will be made to the board while the potential restructuring is pending. In Ohio, members of the board are active in administering oral exams to new psychologists and participate in investigations of complaints filed against psychologists.

Michael Ranney, executive director of the Ohio Psychological Association, wrote that consolidation of boards has nothing to do with the antitrust problems and is bad public policy.

“Ohio is the in the midst of a terrible opioid crisis. We have high numbers of veterans who need mental health services. Our mental health system faces serious workforce shortages. Tinkering with the boards that regulate, license, provide counsel to professionals and maintain standards of legal and ethical services makes no sense. Oversight by professionals who share similar standards, ethics, education and experience provides the best protection to the public,” Ranney wrote.

Another measure involving psychologists, S.B. 300, which was introduced in the state Senate earlier this year, sought prescription authority for properly trained psychologists. The bill was referred to committee but received no hearings. It could be reintroduced in the 2017-2018 legislative session.

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