Licensure Briefing from your Policy Team

The Policy Team at NASW-NYS has continued to focus the majority of its efforts and resources on licensure implementation issues.  Primary among those issues is the 2010 Exemption for “O “Agencies.  As has been reported extensively, thesocial work licensing statute, as enacted in 2004, contained an exemption from licensure for individuals employed in programs under the auspices of the Office of Mental Health, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Office of Children and Family Services, and local social service and mental hygiene districts, to expire on January 1, 2010. As such date neared, it was clear that neither the workforce nor the agencies could come into full compliance and needed an additional extension to prevent a huge workforce disruption.

In an effort to stem such workforce disruptions via a secured extension of the exemption, NASW-NYS began working with other stakeholders across the state (aka The Social Work Licensure Alliance).  During last year’s budget process the exemption was extended a mere five months, pushing the sunset to June 1, 2010.  In the context of this year’s budget process, we, NASW-NYS and the Alliance have continued to engage key members of the legislature, the governor’s staff, the Division of Budget, OMH, and OASAS, as well as other stakeholders and as a result of our work, we have secured language in the Governor’s budget proposal extending the exemption for an additional four years, however, we are also asking that a comprehensive workforce analysis be completed by each of the affected agencies and a follow up taskforce be appointed by the Governor’s office to examine the potential effects of compliance with the social work licensure law in state agencies.   The State Senate has included similar language in their budget resolution, however, the Assembly has not, leaving the issue vulnerable and in limbo…see our action alert if you wish to engage your representatives in favor of the extension.

Another vital workforce issue is that of the Corporate Practice of Social Work.  Again, we have consistently reported on such issue and the fact that applicants who have met the experiential and educational requirements are routinely being denied licensure at the clinical level (LCSW) on the sole grounds that their experience was not acquired in a setting expressly authorized (through licensure by a State agency) to provide licensed professional services such as non-for-profit agencies.  Prior to social work licensure this was not an issue and hundreds of community based service providers routinely hired social workers to provide clinical services.  Upon enactment of social work licensure (and thus the beginning of “scope protection”), such agencies were never informed of the rule change and have therefore continued to provide scope-protected services without express legal authority. The continuing legal prohibition of the provision of scope-protected services in such settings has and will continue to spawn huge workforce and service delivery disruptions.  In an effort to stem such a disruption, we, along with the Licensure Alliance has been working closely with the State Education Department (SED), the legislature and the Governor’s staff to look at potential tweaks to our previously introduced bill language granting statutory authority to SED to create and maintain a registry for currently unauthorized settings providing licensed social work services (S. 5921 and A.8897).  SED’s amended version of the bill is awaiting introduction as of the publishing of this article.

Lastly, but of equal importance to the aforementioned issues is the clinical experience issue. As per Education Law (7704)(2)(c), requirements for obtaining the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Work) call for completion of 3 years, (full time) or 6 years (part-time) of supervised post graduate experience in the provision of diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment based treatment planning, in a facility or non-facility setting acceptable to the State Education Department.  Regulations define full time experience as no less than 20 client contact hours per week and part time as no less than 10 client contact hours per week. It has been brought to our attention by members from various areas of the mental health provider arena that such experience requirements have been crafted too narrowly and exclude an enormous amount of other clinical activities from being viable experiences in relation to licensure.    As such, we, along with the alliance, SED and other stakeholders, have been in discussions regarding potential alterations to present requirements with a focus on maintaining high standards of competency while concurrently being representative of common clinical services that should be considered as viable experiences for licensure at the LCSW level.