Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/11/2003 03:00 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 135-MARITAL & FAMILY THERAPISTS                                                                                            
CHAIR WILSON announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  135,  "An  Act relating  to  marital and  family                                                               
CHAIR WILSON  passed the gavel  to Vice  Chair Gatto so  that she                                                               
could present HB 135.                                                                                                           
Number 0072                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WILSON, sponsor  of HB 135, informed the  committee that HB                                                               
135  was requested  by the  Alaska Association  for Marriage  and                                                               
Family  Therapy.   The Board  of Marital  and Family  Therapy has                                                               
been in place  for 10 years.  She explained  that the board wants                                                               
to update  its statutory language,  and therefore it  conducted a                                                               
nationwide study  to determine  what changes need  to be  made to                                                               
bring  Alaska's  marital and  family  therapists  up to  national                                                               
standards.  Most of HB 135  is housekeeping, although a few areas                                                               
include  substantial changes.    Chair Wilson  then provided  the                                                               
following sectional analysis.                                                                                                   
CHAIR WILSON explained  that Section 1 adds the  Board of Marital                                                               
and  Family Therapy  to  the  list of  boards  that  are able  to                                                               
receive  state contracts  for treatment,  which is  of particular                                                               
importance for the less populated areas of the state.                                                                           
Number 0193                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WILSON said Section 2 specifies  that the board may order a                                                               
marital and family  therapist to submit to  examinations in order                                                               
to determine if the therapist is  capable of safe practices.  The                                                               
aforementioned usually takes place if  there has been a complaint                                                               
and probable cause exists.                                                                                                      
CHAIR WILSON  continued with  Section 3,  which changes  the time                                                               
requirement  for  licensure from  three  years  to 1,500  working                                                               
hours, including one-on-one counseling.                                                                                         
CHAIR WILSON  explained that  Section 4  makes exceptions  to the                                                               
confidentiality rule when  there is a threat of  physical harm to                                                               
an identified victim or when there  is a disclosure by a licensed                                                               
health care professional  leading to a belief  that the therapist                                                               
is  acting in  an  unethical  manner.   The  language change  [in                                                               
Section 4]  is standard  language in  the statutes  pertaining to                                                               
social workers and psychiatrists.                                                                                               
CHAIR WILSON  told the members  that Section 5, which  includes a                                                               
substantial change, prohibits sexual  misconduct between a client                                                               
and therapist  for two years  after the last treatment,  which is                                                               
standard  statutory language  for  health  care professionals  in                                                               
Alaska.  For social workers, there  can be no sexual contact with                                                               
a client for a lifetime.                                                                                                        
Number 0337                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON   continued  with  Section  6,   which  allows  for                                                               
suspension  of  the  license  if  the  examination  discussed  in                                                               
Section 2 is refused.                                                                                                           
CHAIR  WILSON said  Section 7  requires that  family and  marital                                                               
therapists  disclose  working  information,   such  as  fees  and                                                               
exceptions to confidentiality.                                                                                                  
CHAIR WILSON told  the members that the last  section, Section 8,                                                               
specifies  that  those  without proper  training  cannot  act  as                                                               
marital and family therapists.                                                                                                  
CHAIR WILSON directed  attention to Section 7 on page  5, line 8.                                                               
She  informed the  committee that  during the  hearing [March  5,                                                               
2003,    House   Labor    and   Commerce    Standing   Committee]                                                               
Representative  Gatto  questioned  whether any  family  therapist                                                               
could  disclose working  information or  whether it  had to  be a                                                               
licensed family therapist.                                                                                                      
Number 0426                                                                                                                     
VICE CHAIR  GATTO moved to  adopt an amendment that  would delete                                                               
"for marital and family therapy  services" on page 5, lines 9-10,                                                               
and  that  would  insert  "by   a  licensed  marital  and  family                                                               
Number 0495                                                                                                                     
LARRY  HOLMAN,  Chair,  Board  of  Marital  and  Family  Therapy,                                                               
testified in  support of HB  135 and answered questions  from the                                                               
members.   He  asked  the members  to look  at  paragraph (6)  of                                                               
Section 4 on  page 4.  He  explained that if a  client reports to                                                               
the  Board of  Marital and  Family Therapy  that a  mental health                                                               
practitioner  has  done  something unethical  and  unlawful,  the                                                               
board would be able to report  the conduct to the licensing board                                                               
without  being liable  for violating  the confidentiality  law by                                                               
which [the Board of Marital and Family Therapy] is bound.                                                                       
MR. HOLMAN  explained that  HB 135  came about as  a result  of a                                                               
collaboration  between  the  regulatory   board  and  the  Alaska                                                               
Association for Marriage and Family  Therapy.  The board backs HB                                                               
135  because it  provides better  protection for  the public  and                                                               
brings the  Board of Marital  and Family  Therapy up to  the same                                                               
standards as other  mental health boards in  state and nationally                                                               
as well.   Mr. Holman pointed out that some  of the standards are                                                               
crucial due  to the associated  potential for  harm, particularly                                                               
in  the area  of  sexual  misconduct.   Mr.  Holman concluded  by                                                               
saying the board and the association support HB 135.                                                                            
VICE  CHAIR  GATTO asked  if  Mr.  Holman felt  that  disallowing                                                               
sexual contact  between a  therapist and a  client for  two years                                                               
would be sufficient time.                                                                                                       
MR. HOLMAN replied that he believes two years is sufficient.                                                                    
Number 0735                                                                                                                     
SUSAN ARTH,  Division President, Alaska Association  for Marriage                                                               
and Family  Therapy, testified in  support of  HB 135.   She told                                                               
the   committee   the    association   strongly   supports   this                                                               
legislation,  which   would  bring  professionals   into  clearer                                                               
compliance with other states' ethical standards.                                                                                
Number 0800                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON renewed Vice  Chair Gatto's motion to adopt                                                               
an amendment  on page 5, lines  9-10.  There being  no objection,                                                               
it was so ordered.                                                                                                              
Number 0838                                                                                                                     
BILL  PLATTE,  Licensed  Marital and  Family  Therapist;  Member,                                                               
Board of Marital  and Family Therapy, testified in  support of HB                                                               
135 and offered to answer questions from the committee.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON said the committee  was just dealing with a                                                               
bill which  adds clergy  to the categories  that are  required to                                                               
report  child abuse,  neglect, and  sexual misconduct.   He  said                                                               
that  on page  3 of  this  bill it  refers only  to reporting  of                                                               
physical  harm to  intended victims.    He asked  if marital  and                                                               
family therapists are required to report cases of child abuse.                                                                  
MR. PLATTE replied yes.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON commented that  child abuse must be covered                                                               
under another statute.                                                                                                          
MR. PLATTE responded that is correct.                                                                                           
VICE CHAIR GATTO asked if there  is anyone who is not required to                                                               
report child abuse.                                                                                                             
MR. PLATTE  responded that  he did  not believe so.   He  said he                                                               
believes everyone  has to report child  abuse.  He noted  that in                                                               
some  countries even  a  fellow citizen  is  obligated to  report                                                               
child abuse.                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR  GATTO announced for  the record  that Representatives                                                               
Cissna and Heinze have joined the meeting.                                                                                      
Number 0979                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to report  HB 135, as amended, out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
zero fiscal notes.   There being no objection,  CSHB 135(HES) was                                                               
reported  from the  House Health,  Education and  Social Services                                                               
Standing Committee.                                                                                                             

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