Legislation threatens the quality of mental health services and perpetuates marginalization of low income Utahns

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) State Sen. Curt Bramble on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Bramble is sponsoring a bill in the 2024 legislative session intended to increase Utahns’ access to mental health services.

SB0026 intends to cut the required hours of experience for mental health provider licensure by a dangerous 60%; from 3,000 to 1,200 hours. This not only places clients’ well-being at risk by diminishing the field’s experience but also fails to consider other important factors for the mental health field.

Recently, there have been motions for Utah to join the Social Work Licensure Compact which benefits Utahns by allowing therapists to have their licenses honored amidst multiple states. With the bill’s proposed changes, Utah will not maintain quality of care competitive to surrounding states requiring 3,000-4,000 hours and possibly render us ineligible for the compact. These changes are more reflective of an associate degree rather than the high level of skill and safety a master’s degree provides; the high level care Utahns deserve.

The bill also fails to address the responsibility and power insurance companies hold in influencing access to care. They maintain their own requirements for providers in addition to those of educational institutions and state licensing commonly requiring advanced specializations and experience. They create infuriating hurdles which negatively impact provider financial stability with drawn out payments and nonexistent inflation or cost of living adjustments. Therapists are already flocking to cash-pay services and the new wave of less experienced therapists will likely be forced to do the same. A larger pool of cash pay providers only perpetuates the gap of affordable health care services to our marginalized low-income Utahns. This bill requires additional attention and amendments involving direct feedback from therapists and clients before being enacted.

Jasmine Fitzsimmons, Salt Lake City

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