Midland Psychological Services

Thousands of licensed counselors, many of whom treat and diagnose patients, could soon find themselves unable to offer mental health services in Michigan.

The state is proposing regulatory changes to eliminate the ability of licensed professional counselors to diagnose – something the state claims they’ve been doing illegally for decades.

“We lose about one-third of our employees,” said Corrie Lovejoy, regional manager at Midland Psychological Services.

Lovejoy said the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has proposed new rules that would eliminate insurance contracts for licensed professional counselors at her practice and statewide. The change impacts about 10,000 counselors.

Lovejoy said she has reached out to state lawmakers to pass legislation that would prevent this.

“Some of them are really in support of passing the positive HB-4325. Some of them stand behind LARA’s decision and say that professional counselors are not qualified to diagnose and treat the same way that psychologists and social workers are,” Lovejoy said.

LARA Communications Director Jason Moon issued the following statement:

“The current counseling rules are outdated and are in need of an update. In particular, one of the issues being addressed in the rule is the use of the words "diagnose and psychotherapy" which are used in definitions of the current rules. The pending rules seek to move the definitions from one section to the proper section under the education portion of the rules to provide the clarity needed to align with the statutory authority. The current placement of the "diagnose and psychotherapy" has caused concerns with the manner in which the Board of Counselors and the counseling profession have been interpreting the rules to mean that licensees are allowed to diagnose and use psychotherapy techniques, despite the statute not allowing this practice under the profession's scope.

Prior to moving forward with the rule changes, the department had worked with the Board and stakeholders for years to get this and the manner in which the scope of practice was being interpreted, addressed. Each time efforts were made to proceed in updating the rules, the Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association and licensed counselors moved forward with legislative efforts to have the law changed to allow the counselors to diagnose and use psychotherapy techniques. On each occasion, the department agreed to delay the rulemaking process to give the stakeholders an opportunity to work it out in statute. More recently, HB 5776 was introduced in April 2018 to accomplish that goal during the last legislative session, but it did not pass. HB 4325 was introduced in March 2019 to address the issue.

It is the goal of the department to move the language to the proper place of the existing rules along with making other necessary technical updates to the rules. The current law does not give the department authority to expand or change the scope of practice of this profession by rule.

In terms of the status of the rules, a public hearing has been scheduled for October 4th. Once the public hearing occurs, the rules will need to be reviewed based on the public comment and then prepared for further consideration before moving through the remainder of the process, which will take some time to complete.

The updated rules provide greater clarity needed for licensees and aid in their understanding of the requirements of the rules. These rules would create a regulatory framework making compliance easier for licensees and would help protect the safety of Michiganders. However, the department cannot seek to promulgate rules that are improper and exceeds authority of the statute.”

The LPCs TV5 spoke to said LARA’s proposal actually puts more Michiganders at risk. They say clients would lose their trusted therapists as early as Nov. 1.

“It’s pretty scary. It’s hard to keep a Teflon mind and work with people that are going through a lot of stress when we don’t know if we’re going to be around in a few weeks,” said Liz Neymeiyer.

“Trying to find a job or restart a whole career at this point in life, with a newborn son and a house, it’s a lot of stress,” said Chris Morabito.

“I’m married. I have two children. This is my dream job,” said Amanda Patterson.

Lovejoy is hoping more than 150,000 people statewide won’t lose their therapist.

“It’s not something that we’re happy with. It’s not something that we’re comfortable with. And just the sheer amount of people that would be affected, it’s just too much,” Lovejoy said.

LARA is holding a public hearing on the proposed changed at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 4 at the G. Mennen Williams Building Auditorium in Lansing.

The State House bill to stop the changes is scheduled to be voted on next week.

Copyright 2019 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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