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National Licensing & State Reciprocity for Telemental Health Providers
Currently, all licensing for mental health providers occurs on a state-by-state basis, with immense variation in rules and requirements. For years, this has disadvantaged military spouses who have to start licensing requirements all over when they move to a new state. COVID-19 has shown us what is possible; many states have temporarily extended license reciprocity to counselors outside of their boundaries to deal with the emergency. But what happens when this reciprocity is rescinded? It's possible that telemental health therapists will have to terminate services with their clients due to not being able to legally see someone "across state lines." This seems absurd, risky (especially for traumatized clients), and unethical.
Why is this important?
There are several reasons why counselors need the ability to get a national license, not one that ends at the state border.
1) Mental health needs are going to skyrocket in the aftermath of the pandemic. Creating an agile, responsive, national force of mental health workers that can respond to mental health criss "hot spots" will be important.
2) Clients, who have started seeing a counselor out of state during the COVID 19 exemptions, may have to start all over again with a new counselor when the exemptions run out if Congress doesn't act.
3) Counselors run into problems when clients who reside in one area temporarily move to another state (think of college students who go to college in one locale, then may go home to a different state). Current licensing laws don't adequately address current reality and our new telemental health capacities.
4) The pandemic has shown us how arbitrary state lines are when it comes to health emergencies. If these rules can be waived now, then surely we can find a more permanent workable solution.
Please tell Congress we need a national solution to the problems created by state-by-state licensing for counselors. At the very least, we need a national approach to licensing telemental health providers so when crises arise, we can respond swiftly and in a unified way.