The Sunset Advisory Commission described the situation with Texas’ mental health care boards with the phrase “severe operational dysfunction.” The commission’s report outlines major issues with the way the state regulates therapists, counsellors and social workers. Lauren McGaughey, state government reporter for the Dallas Morning News, has been covering the issue.
Every few years the Sunset Commission reviews hundreds of state agencies to see if they are still necessary or if any changes should be made. Years ago, they looked at the three separate regulating boards that provide licenses and oversight for therapists, professional counselors and social workers.
“They found some big problems,” McGaughey says. “Right now they are operating in such a disjointed manner that there’s not enough staff and not enough time to properly undertake the necessary steps that each board needs to do.”
Specifically, the commission said, the licensing procedures for these very in-demand careers are taking so long that it’s keeping people out of the workforce.
“I got an email from a social worker who just moved to Texas and is trying to get her license switched over,” McGaughey says. “She is having huge problems with the paperwork process.”
The woman told McGaughey that she had to go back three or for times to show the board that she provided the proper paperwork. For several months the board didn’t see the paperwork, leaving her unable to work.
The commission also said that complaints filed against counselors and therapists are taking years to process.
Currently there are separate boards for family and marriage counselors, for professional counselors, for psychologists and for social workers. The commission said all these boards need to be consolidated into one. They also said there are that many of these career paths have unnecessary requirements that keep people out of the professions.
“Other states have already moved past this,” McGaughy says. “For some reason Texas still has these antiquated rules on the books.”
The commission told lawmakers two years ago to phase the licensing boards out, but so far the change hasn’t come. This review is a signal to lawmakers that 2019 is the year that these reforms must be put into effect.
“They just sort of kicked the can down the road for two more years,” McGaughy says. “Now the board is saying, ‘You have to do this. If you don’t then we’re going to have really huge problems we just aren’t going to be able to weather.’”
Written by Jeremy Steen.