By: Craig Coleman, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F, ASHA-F
West Virginia HB 2697: What it means for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
This post hits close to home, as the legislation being discussed (WV House Bill 2697) directly impacts speech-language pathologists (me) and audiologists in my state. The bill would allow non-licensed providers in our fields to practice as long as they disclose that they were not licensed. The good news? They have to disclose that they don’t have a license in at least a 14 pt. font!
The rationale provided in the bill does little to explain why anyone would believe this is a good idea for consumers. First, the bill claims that one of the purposes is to “expand opportunities.” I like opportunities. For example, everyone has an opportunity to get an undergraduate degree, get a Master’s degree in speech-language pathology or doctoral degree in audiology, obtain the over 350 clinic clock hours and nine months of clinical practice, and supervision needed to obtain a license. This bill is not providing opportunities, it is providing a means to undercut professional services from qualified providers to people with speech, language, swallowing, and hearing disorders.
A second purpose listed is to “encourage trade associations to self-regulate.” That’s exactly what licensure boards do! Board members are appointed to make sure that the laws are current and reflect the scope of practice. Boards typically contain professional and public representation.
Third, the bill states that this will “relieve providers from burdensome occupational licenses.” It will likely relieve qualified providers of jobs, and relieve consumers of qualified services. Licensure protects professionals from encroachment, but most importantly, it protects consumers from service provision by unqualified providers. For example, I am quite certain no member of the House or Senate would want me to do their plumbing work, no matter what font size I used to disclose my lack of license. For the record, I am NOT A LICENSED PLUMBER.
So, why is this bill important to all of us in the professions? If it happens in one state, other states will surely follow. Please take time to write to the following sponsors of the bill to tell them why this is a really bad idea! You can use any of the above post in your message or draft your own.
Thanks for taking the time to be an advocate for the professions and consumers.