Northern Michigan LPC’s Worried About Proposed Changes by LARA

Licensed, professional counselors across Michigan are concerned about changes proposed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs or LARA.

Counselors say the changes would limit their ability to diagnose, preventing them from getting reimbursed by insurance companies.

But LARA says requirements for counselors are out of date and the changes are necessary.

Jana Rockne is a licensed professional counselor in Traverse City. She says she worries about what the proposed changes by LARA would mean for the dozens of patients she sees every week.

“I can say without hesitation that it would decimate the profession. More than anything, it would mean that I can’t be helpful to clients and that is a tragedy,” said Rockne.

Ann Ronayne is just months from finishing up classes to become a licensed counselor. She says the proposed changes would also impact the next generation of LPC’s and their patients

“We are taught to be thorough, and thoughtful, and careful and know what we’re talking about. It would really severely limit my ability to do the work that I’ve been working so hard and studying so hard to do,” said Ronayne.

It’s estimated the change could impact as many at 150,000 patients and 10,000 counselors statewide. Dr. Amelia Siders is the Clinical Director at the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and says that would be devastating.

“There are far more people in need of counseling, especially in the areas of trauma than there are people to provide those things,” said Siders.

LARA issued this statement on the proposed changes:

The current counseling rules are outdated and are in need of an update.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.

LARA will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes on October 4th

There is also legislation in Lansing addressing this issue.

That’s HB 4325.

It calls for continuing education for licensed counselors.

It would also define the range of services they’re able to provide.

Supporters say passing it would do away with the proposed changes by LARA.

Representative Daire Rendon from Lake City helped sponsor the legislation.

The bill has been referred to the committee on health policy.