Counselors could continue to practice under bill sent to Whitmer

Oct 18, 2019

LANSING, MI (MPRN)--   Licensed mental health counselors in the state will be allowed to continue diagnosing and treating patients under a bill adopted Thursday by the state Senate. The bill is now in its way to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her to sign or veto.

Lawmakers have been flooded with messages on social media and voicemail as well as visits to their offices. Licensed counselors say new rules being enacted by the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs would put them out of business.

“We had everything – coffee hour visits, office visits, Facebook messages, Twitter messages,” said state Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield). “I was waiting for people to have carrier pigeons come up to my front door.”

The intensive lobbying effort was aimed at blocking a change in rules as they’re enforced by the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. It would prohibit counselors from diagnosing patients and helping to develop treatment plans. That would also make it harder for counselors to have their services covered by insurance.

David Flowers is a counselor from Flint. He says if the rules were allowed to take effect it would leave him unable to do his job.

“The rule would prohibit us from using therapy techniques, and part of therapy techniques is defined as establishing a therapeutic relationship with a client,” he said. “So if you can’t do that, you can’t do anything.”

Anna Van Wyck from northwest Michigan works with children up to age 12. She says the bill adopted by the Legislature is a welcome reprieve.

“It means all the children and the families that I see are going to be able to continue to get the counseling that they need.”

Counselors stood in the Senate gallery and cheered once the unanimous vote was announced. Their attention will now turn to Governor Whitmer as they press her to sign the bill.

The governor’s press secretary says she’s sympathetic to the goal of the legislation, but she has not committed to approving the bill.