CHP: Budget Proposal Would Hurt Mental Health Access, Critics Say

NYAPRS Note: NYAPRS has been an active member of the campaign to ensure that state enforcement of previously legislated social work scope of practice rules don’t prevent large sections of the behavioral health workforce from answering the call. We have worked in particular to ensure that the work of certified peer specialists, psychiatric rehabilitation practitioners and rehabilitation counselors are not restricted. We’ll be asking you to send in an email later today.

Budget Proposal Would Hurt Mental Health Access, Critics Say

Crain’s Health Pulse   March 20, 2018

The Coalition for Behavioral Health and its member agencies are opposing a proposed budget provision that they say would lead to disruptions in behavioral health care.

The provision, introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and included in the Assembly and Senate's one-house budget bills, would end an exemption that's been in place since the early 2000s. It allows certain practitioners, such as mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, to participate in the diagnosis, assessment and treatment of patients without in-person oversight by a licensed clinical social worker. Other affected workers include people with Master of Social Work degrees and creative arts therapists.

The new provision would require LCSWs to see patients either in person or electronically for a diagnosis to be approved, but there's too few licensed clinicians to make that feasible, said Jason Lippman, executive vice president at the Coalition for Behavioral Health.

The proposal would also restrict non-licensed mental health clinicians from performing psychotherapy, said Elliott Klein, executive director of the New York Psychotherapy and Counseling Center. He estimates that the change would affect half of his clinical staff. The nonprofit serves 18,000 people annually in the East New York and Buswick sections of Brooklyn and the South Bronx. 

"If the state doesn’t extend or permanently exempt [these workers], there will no longer be access to mental health in many of the most underserved neighborhoods in New York City," Klein said.

For the state, the provision would resolve a nearly two-decades-old exception to the scope of practice rules that has routinely been extended. Cuomo's budget would allow any person working at an agency before July 1, 2020, to perform the same tasks for as long as they work there. The Senate's "grandfathering" rule would apply only to people who began work at their employer before July 1, 2018.