General Assembly passes DiMario, Fogarty legislation allowing two-tiered licensing for mental health counselors
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) that would address the shortage of mental health counselors by creating a two-tiered licensing structure.
The bill (2022-S 2616A, 2022-H 7872A) would create an entry-level licensing program to allow applicants as a mental health counselor associate or a marriage and family therapist associate to practice under supervision prior to becoming a licensed mental health counselor or a licensed marriage and family therapist.
“We talk about how important it is to have a strong provider network for mental health services in Rhode Island,” said Senator DiMario. “There are unbearable and unnecessary barriers and wait times for people to be able to access the type of treatment that they need. We have a difficult time retaining providers. We need to make sure that the continuum of care in our system as a whole is well staffed and operating to meet the needs of those patients. This legislation would solve some of those problems by getting qualified graduates out into the field faster to practice for a wider range of clients.”
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 1 in 4 adults, or 60 million people, experience mental illness. With parts of the country experiencing a shortage of mental health professionals, state lawmakers have been working to reduce the barriers providers face in obtaining a license to practice in order to bring mental health services to areas of the country with mental health professional shortages.
“Everybody in the country is having issues with mental counseling, and it’s only been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic; that’s why 44 other states have already adopted this,” said Representative Fogarty. “The associates would be able to bill any insurance that their supervisor accepts. As it stands now, they may only be able to be utilized in a Medicaid setting. This way they would be able to see a wider range of patients to build their skills without being limited to a certain population of people.”
The measure now moves to the Governor’s office.