No More COVID Telemental Health Practice Exemptions?
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Some states have ended COVID telemental health exemptions for out-of-state counselors, social workers or marriage and family therapists. It’s very difficult to determine which states–right? And you need to know if you are illegally practicing.
*This information is accurate today 3/2/22. It’s subject to change. As much as possible, I’ll keep it up-to-date.* Many states’ counseling boards are renewing month-by-month usually subject to renewal of their governor’s state of emergency executive order.
Also, it’s tedious contacting boards and searching government websites so I appreciate your patience with these updates.`
Read on: I’m going to teach you how to locate states’ current policies.
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Are These Nationwide Decisions to End COVID-19 Telemental Health Exemptions
The federal government does not have jurisdiction over state professional licensing law. Only their own laws related to COVID-19. For example, federal healthcare programs and HIPAA rules.
So the answer is no. Each state decides out-of-state telemental health practice.
States With Explicit Termination of Out-Of-State Practice
We have all wondered when the gravy train will end. Well it is ending. Counseling in any state without a license- including telemental health- will be illegal.
Maryland terminated their telemental health exemption on July 1 2021.
Montana ended their telemental health exemptions on June 30 2021.
North Carolina chose to not implement their Governor’s permission to waive portions of their licensing law. So North Carolina has never had a COVID-19 Policy Exemption.
Virginia’s Counseling board had both a temporary license and a continuity of care provision but both have expired.
Can I Practice In Other States Under The New Counseling Compact?
No. Due to time and other obstacles, the counseling compact may not be active for several years. For now, don’t hang your hat on that as you develop reciprocity licenses for your practice.
States That Have Renewed Their Exemptions
First, important to note is that states’ end of COVID-19 exemptions is ‘on again, off again’ since some governors have rescinded and renewed their executive orders several times during the pandemic.
Generally, licensing boards do not need an executive order to waive out-of-state telemental health counseling provided it is legal under their state law.
**Through Georgia governor Brian Kemp’s executive order the board has been given the option to waive a portion of it’s rules to permit out-of-state telemental health. Georgia’s Composite Board has waived certain aspects of out of state practice but this Georgia COVID rule is specific. Georgia’s executive order has been extended thru March 27 2022.
**New York Mental Health Professional licensing boards has extended their out-of-state telemental health policy. Governor Kathy Hochul extended the State of Emergency on 3/1/22 expiring 3/30/22.
Step-By-Step Guide To Locating Current State COVID Policies.
1) Do a search for the other state’s licensing board. Use terms like ‘florida counseling board’ or ‘wisconsin social work board’.
2) On the search engine or Google result, look for a website that is a .gov. Most likely this will link you to primary source state board information. Don’t use a third party site like ‘weknowboardrulescovid.com’.
3) The link may be to the general state government page. You need to find the link to the board’s page in the top menu bar or side bar.
4) Scan the page for links that refer to ‘COVID emergency policies’ or Governor executive order. Check the internal link at the board’s page first. It may conflict with the governor executive order.
5) The language should be clear and explicit whether the state has lifted out of state mental health practice. If it is not keep searching.
6) Again check the top menu bar or side bar for board rules and regulations (not the board law or code page). You may find your answer there.
7) If you are unable to find explicit COVID-19 telemental health exemptions, then assume the state does not permit it.
8) HINT: Press CTRL F and search for COVID on each page or within each document.
9) Policies related to COVID-19 may be in a .PDF or .DOCX file.
I have clients I’m seeing via out-of-state telemental health? How can I continue to see them if COVID-19 expires?
In most cases you will either need to apply for licensure by exam waiver or by endorsement. Which is best for you is dependent on which state and other factors. I can help you with this with a one-on-on consultation.
Ironically the ethical problems of telemental health are probably more hazardous than the legal issues.
Learn more about that in this 2 HR Interactive Practice Across State Lines Webinar. You will also have an opportunity to ask as many questions as time allows. Hope to see you at the next one! eric-