Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/23/2003 01:34 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
               HB 135-MARITAL & FAMILY THERAPISTS                                                                           
CHAIR FRED DYSON  called the Senate Health,  Education and Social                                                             
Services  Standing  Committee  meeting  to  order  at  1:34  p.m.                                                               
Present were Senators  Guess, Wilken, Davis and  Dyson. The Chair                                                               
announced HB 135 to be up for consideration.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PEGGY  WILSON, sponsor,  said that HB  135 updates                                                               
the marital  and family  therapist statutes  to the  standards of                                                               
other counseling services in the  state and to national standards                                                               
as  well. It  adds this  board  to the  list of  boards that  can                                                               
contract   out  for   substance  abuse   treatment  by   licensed                                                               
therapists,  gives  the  board  authority  to  order  a  licensed                                                               
therapist  to   submit  to  a   reasonable  physical   or  mental                                                               
examination if the  board has credible evidence  to conclude that                                                               
the therapist's physical  or mental capacity is at  risk for safe                                                               
practice,  allows individual  client  contact to  be used  toward                                                               
hours for  licensing, and requires  the therapist  to communicate                                                               
to  a potential  victim or  law enforcement  officer a  threat of                                                               
serious imminent  harm if  such a  threat is  made by  the client                                                               
during  treatment. It  also imposes  disciplinary sanctions  with                                                               
regard  to  therapist sexual  misconduct  and  provides for  some                                                               
disclosure of information as a consumer protection.                                                                             
CHAIR DYSON  asked if the  law anticipates that the  marriage and                                                               
family therapist  would be talking  to the  potential perpetrator                                                               
or knows  them, in regard to  the provision that would  allow the                                                               
therapist  to  communicate a  threat  to  a potential  victim  or                                                               
police officer.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON said that is correct.                                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON asked if his  understanding is correct that this bill                                                               
will give that authority to the other people on boards.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON replied the  other boards already have that                                                               
authority. It is being added here.                                                                                              
CHAIR DYSON  asked if this bill  makes any changes for  the other                                                               
groups on the list.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON indicated it does not.                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON asked  for an explanation of the  provision that will                                                               
allow client contact hours to be used towards licensing.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON answered  that  in  Alaska, especially  in                                                               
rural  areas, therapists  are sometimes  consulted  to do  family                                                               
counseling,  but  do  individual   counseling  also.  Until  now,                                                               
therapists have not been able  to count the individual counseling                                                               
hours for licensing purposes.                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON asked if it allows them to double count the hours.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON replied it does not.                                                                                      
MR.  LARRY   HOLMAN,  Chairman,   Marriage  and   Family  Therapy                                                               
Regulatory  Board,  explained  that  HB 135  is  a  collaborative                                                               
effort between  the American Family Therapy  Regulatory Board and                                                               
the professional  association. This bill is  essential because it                                                               
provides  better   protection  for   the  public  in   the  areas                                                               
Representative  Wilson  talked  about.  In  the  area  of  sexual                                                               
misconduct,  it fills  out guidelines  similar to  those used  by                                                               
other  health disciplines.  It  prohibits  a sexual  relationship                                                               
with  a  client  for  two   years  after  termination  of  active                                                               
treatment.   This   bill  also   makes   an   exception  to   the                                                               
confidentiality  law  that is  a  usual  standard in  therapy  to                                                               
report potentially dangerous  actions by a client  or revealed by                                                               
a client.                                                                                                                       
Most  therapists provide  a disclosure  statement,  but it  isn't                                                               
very  clear  sometimes.  HB  135  asks  them  to  disclose  their                                                               
education, their  areas of specialization,  their fees  and other                                                               
related  information.  It limits  the  practice  of marriage  and                                                               
family  therapists to  areas of  their  education or  specialized                                                               
training.  All  of  the  provisions derive  from  many  years  of                                                               
practical experience  where there  has been difficulty  either in                                                               
Alaska  or  in  another  state.   He  said  marriage  and  family                                                               
therapists use  the American Association  of Marriage  and Family                                                               
Therapy Code of  Ethics, but he has been told  it is important to                                                               
actually  put some  of the  code into  law to  spell it  out more                                                               
CHAIR DYSON asked  if a therapist violates the  section on sexual                                                               
contact  with  a  client,  that therapist  would  be  subject  to                                                               
actions against their license, not criminal sanctions.                                                                          
MR. HOLMAN replied that is correct.                                                                                             
SENATOR LYDA GREEN arrived at 1:45 p.m.                                                                                         
SENATOR  GREEN said  that last  year  when they  dealt with  this                                                               
bill, there were  problems with section 7, which  says, "A client                                                               
may  not be  charged  a  fee by  a  licensed  marital and  family                                                               
therapist  unless  before the  performance  of  the services  the                                                               
client  was  furnished  a  copy   of  a  professional  disclosure                                                               
statement that contained...."                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  responded that  was changed to  direct the                                                               
statute to licensed therapists.                                                                                                 
MR. HOLMAN responded that he wasn't sure of that.                                                                               
SENATOR  GREEN  said she  had  never  been shown  a  professional                                                               
disclosure statement  in a doctor  or dentist's  office. However,                                                               
HB 135  says the  therapist would be  punished for  forgetting to                                                               
provide a  litany of  information to  the client.  She questioned                                                               
why the  board would want  to do that  to its own  membership and                                                               
asked, "Have they defrauded the client?"                                                                                        
MR. HOLMAN replied that their  code of ethics requires therapists                                                               
to provide a disclosure, so someone would not forget to do that.                                                                
CHAIR DYSON  asked if  that requirement is  in statute  for other                                                               
related disciplines.                                                                                                            
MR. HOLMAN replied the disclosure  statement language is the same                                                               
used in other disciplines, but he wasn't sure about the rest.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  explained  when   a  client  comes  to  a                                                               
therapist, the  client could very  likely be distraught  over the                                                               
breakup of  a marriage  and may not  be thinking  clearly. That's                                                               
why it's so important  for the client to know he  or she bill get                                                               
the disclosure statement.                                                                                                       
CHAIR DYSON  said he  would hold  the bill  for further  work. He                                                               
wanted to  know if the  same disclosure requirements were  put on                                                               
the   Board  of   Professional  Counselors   and  the   Board  of                                                               
Psychologists and Psychological Associates.                                                                                     
               HB 135-MARITAL & FAMILY THERAPISTS                                                                           
CHAIR  FRED   DYSON  announced   HB  135  to   be  back   up  for                                                               
SENATOR LYDA  GREEN moved to  adopt Amendment 1 and  objected for                                                               
the  purpose  of providing  an  explanation.  She explained  that                                                               
Amendment 1  removes the  language that says  a client  would not                                                               
have to pay  if the disclosure information isn't  provided. A new                                                               
introductory   paragraph  after   "disclosure  statement"   says,                                                               
"Before  the   performance  of  services,  the   client  will  be                                                               
furnished  a copy  of a  professional  disclosure statement  that                                                               
SENATOR GREEN removed her objection.                                                                                            
CHAIR  DYSON  announced  that  with   no  further  objections  to                                                               
Amendment 1, it was adopted.                                                                                                    
SENATOR BETTYE DAVIS moved to  pass SCSHB 135(HES) from committee                                                               
with individual objections.  There were no objections  and it was                                                               
so ordered.                                                                                                                     

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