HB 445 & SB 530: Practice Protection for Clinical Social Workers
Practice protection will ensure that only a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) can provide clinical social work services in Pennsylvania. This protects clients from harmful or under-qualified service providers.
Our bill will also add "diagnosis" to the scope of practice for licensed clinical social workers.
Works toward the expectation of licensure already in place for most other professions, such as nurses, occupational therapists, doctors, speech therapists.
Without practice protection, an individual that loses her/his license in another state may come to PA and practice without a license. Simply put, anyone can legally provide clinical social work services in PA, even without a license.
48 other states already mandate that MSWs who want to practice independently obtain a clinical license to do so. We hope to become the 49th state with this protection in place.
Practice protection would help keep social workers accountable and ensure that consumers are receiving the best possible services.
The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors is the only regulated board that does not have legal practice protection in place
NASW-PA is working in collaboration with Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Workers (PSCSW) to pass HB 445 (previously HB 1415). HB 445 of the 2017-2018 legislative session amends the Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act to create practice protection and update the scope of practice for clinical social workers. Practice protection ensures that only those who hold a professional license to deliver clinical social work services in Pennsylvania may provide such services and treatment. Pennsylvania is severely behind in this essential step towards consumer protection. The Act will also be amended to add "diagnosis” to the clinical social worker scope of practice. This legislation would ensure Pennsylvania joins every other state in the nation, other than Montana, in establishing a method of protection for Pennsylvania citizens in the receipt of mental health services.
Pennsylvania currently has no restrictions on who can provide clinical mental health treatment services. Services are provided to a wide array of individuals facing many different life challenges. At a time when individuals and families are in crisis, they are not just looking for someone with whom to talk; they are seeking a person with the education, experience and appropriate credentials to deliver mental health services. Creation of practice protection for clinical social workers would ensure that providers meet competency standards and adhere to ethical practice. Currently, anyone can hang out a sign and claim to deliver mental health services within the Commonwealth when they may not be equipped to provide those services. Take the following as examples:
A social worker lost his/her license in the state of New York for an unknown reason. Rather than fulfill obligations set forth by a New York State Board, this professional relocated his/her private practice to Pennsylvania because it is the only state of the five surrounding where licensure is not required to practice.
Another professional is also practicing in Pennsylvania without a professional license. A sexual abuse survivor seeks out this professional’s services to address recurring trauma. This professional tells this survivor that they are unwilling to accept private health insurance and the client pays for services out of pocket. The reality is this professional is not licensed and therefore they are not eligible for reimbursement from private health insurance companies. There is no accountability in place to protect this already victimized individual.
The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors, is the only regulated board that does not have legal practice protection in place. A modest step forward, the proposed basic practice protection ensures that individuals providing clinical social work services are regulated in some way by the government. Either they work for a regulated entity or they themselves are a licensed provider, and therefore, they are regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of State. In order to adequately ensure public protection, there must be a minimum level of values, skill and responsibility for all who practice clinical social work.
In addition to the creation of practice protection, this legislation would add "diagnosis” to the scope of practice for licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), which 45 other states already have in place. Even though insurance companies presently accept diagnostic codes from LCSWs for services rendered, it is critical that diagnosis be added to the scope of practice for LCSWs, as it is a professional privilege already being applied. Every state surrounding Pennsylvania allows licensed clinical social workers to diagnose clients, putting Pennsylvania at a competitive disadvantage in terms of our workforce and the services they can provide to their clients.
We encourage you to write or call your legislators' offices and ask for their support for these bills. Calling your legislators is the most effective way to gain their attention. When calling, it is important to make sure you have a grasp on what bill you are supporting and a brief explanation of why you support it. See the video below for an example of what to expect when calling / how to call your legislator. It's much easier than many people think!
Act 179 of 2014 allows for social workers holding a BSW degree from an accredited social work program to choose to pursue LBSW license. NASW-PA had been advocating for bachelor level licensure many years prior to this act. In fact, the NASW-PA Legislative Advocacy Day of 2014 was focused on passing this legislation. A few months later SB 807 was approved by Governor Tom Corbett and became Act 179 of 2014. As stated in the bill's memo, written by the bill's Primary Sponsor Charles McIlhinney, "Social workers with master’s degrees already have a voluntary license in place, but we need to acknowledge that there are thousands of BSWs who have no mechanism for licensure in place. It is time that Pennsylvania join the 36 other states that credential social workers at the bachelor’s level." Click here to read Act 179 of 2014.
Title Protection: Implementing Act 68 of 2008
In 2008, NASW-PA advocated on behalf of the social work profession and was successful in establishing title protection for Pennsylvania's social workers. House Bill 1693 was signed into law on July 10, 2008, becoming Act 68 of 2008. Under this Pennsylvania state law, it is illegal for an individual to hold oneself out as a social worker, use the title "social worker," or use the abbreviation "SW" unless they hold a current license (LSW or LCSW) or have received a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree from a CSWE accredited school or program of social work.
The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors is finalizing regulations related to title protection violations. With the first draft of the regulation, an offending agency or individual violating title protection would be charged $100 per month from 1 to 12 months, with $1,000 being the maximum annual charge. However, due to the complicated nature of prosecuting such an offense, it became the perspective of NASW-PA that the $100 per month penalty should be raised to $1,000 per month, with a maximum annual charge of $10,000. This is a great victory for the social work profession and NASW-PA commends the State Board for their work on drafting these regulations.
It is no secret that there are entities within the Commonwealth that do not comply with this law and blatantly violate it. The higher monetary penalty will serve to dissuade individuals and agencies that would disregard the title protection law. Protecting the integrity of the profession is a critical mission of NASW-PA and all social workers. Therefore, if you encounter an individual that is breaking the law under title protection, it is essential that you contact NASW-PA so we can collectively protect the value of our education, skills, and profession. Please call NASW-PA at 717-232-4125 if you encounter any violations.
More information on title protection:
Signed into law on July 10, 2008; effective on September 8, 2008.
Sponsored by Rep. Marc Gergely (D-35). Rep. Gergely is a two time winner of the NASW-PA Legislator of the Year Award and sponsored House Bill 1250 (practice protection) during the last legislative session.
Act 68 also reduces the number of clinical supervision hours needed for the LCSW to 3,000.
Act 17 exempts social workers who obtained their ACSW credential prior to Jan. 1, 2001, from providing documentation of supervision in order to take the LCSW exam. This will impact seasoned social workers who entered clinical practice prior to the creation of LCSW licensure.
Great news! Thanks to the advocacy of hundreds of seasoned social workers, House Bill 816 was signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett, becoming Act 17 of 2012. Eligible social workers with an ACSW credential can now access the paperwork to apply for the license and sit for the clinical exam here.
NASW-PA would like to thank the bill's sponsor, Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) for his strong support. NASW-PA is also grateful for the support received by Rep. Julie Harhart (R-Lehigh and Northampton), Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), their staffs, and the executive leadership of the House Professional Licensure Committee and Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
NASW-PA consistently works with the Pennsylvania General Assembly on issues of interest to Social Workers in the Commonwealth. As a membership organization, we have undoubtedly impacted legislation and the General Assembly. But, our successes could be ten-fold if we were to maximize our most precious resource - the nearly 6,000 social work members of NASW-PA. Imagine what we could accomplish legislatively if ALL 6,000 members of our Chapter contacted their State Representative and State Senator!
We understand that some of you may feel hesitant or uncomfortable communicating with your legislators. However, the reality is that these people are your neighbors – they live in your community, they may attend your place of worship, their kids may be in your school, etc. Your legislators want to hear from you, their constituent.
NASW-PA is committed to having mobilized, active members to help us get legislation to advance the social work profession. Below are some hints and tips for finding and contacting your legislators to make the best impression possible!
If there is an area that you think NASW-PA needs to draft guidance, or if you would like to suggest edits to any of these documents, please send your thoughts, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.