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December 2022 Legislative Update: Looking Forward | Looking Back

As 2022 concludes, we want to take a moment to thank all of you for your continued support of WAMFT’s advocacy efforts as we maintain and enhance our profession’s visibility and work alongside stakeholders to address the mental health crisis in our state. We can’t do this without you!

Read further for important Department of Health updates, a bit about what to expect for 2023, and a recap of WAMFT’s advocacy efforts in 2022.

And…please join us for 2023 Day on the Hill–registration closes January 6!

2022 Department of Health Updates

Advanced Suicide Training

The timeline for implementation of this requirement has been extended to early 2023. The Department is finalizing rules and standards for the Advanced Suicide Training Requirement (second required 6-hr suicide training), which will become enforceable in 2023. WAMFT is looking for a qualified trainer to develop and facilitate a training that adheres to the Department’s criteria. Learn more and apply here.

Relevant updated WACs for advanced suicide training:

ESSB 5229 Equity in Healthcare Continuing Education Rulemaking

Minimum standards across all healthcare professions (2 hours every 4 years) have been set by the Department, and rulemaking for specific professions, including MFT, will begin in 2023. Want to be involved? Subscribe to rule making updates

Licensure Fees Holding Steady for MFTs

Though some behavioral health professions’ licensure fees will be increasing due to profession-specific budget concerns at the Department level, the MFT budget is overall healthy, our number of actionable complaints is low, and there are no pending licensure fee increases for our profession at time of this writing.

WAC 246-809 Potential/Proposed Rule Changes–(NOT FINAL)

Note–these are potential/proposed changes and still subject to change at time of this writing. See Draft Rule Changes.

  • Updated “approved supervisor” definition: supervisor must have an active license in the state or country in which the licensure candidate is gaining supervised postgraduate experience (p. 18)

  • Applicants who have obtained their degree outside the United States must have their degree validated by a credential evaluation service prior to applying for licensure (p. 22)

  • Distance learning cap removed as well as requirement for a test of comprehension (p. 64)

  • CE documentation updated requirements (pp. 75-76)

  • Clarifying the definition of “face-to-face supervision” to include synchronous video conferencing

  • Increasing group supervision maximum from 6 to 8 supervisees

  • Clarifying how the 25 hours of supervision experience for state-approved supervisor designation may be obtained

Looking forward: 2023

As in 2022, we expect that in the 2023 Legislative Session, many issues related to behavioral health will be at the forefront as the legislature continues to look for ways to address the workforce shortage and increase access to care. The 2023 Washington State Legislative Session is already gearing up to be controversial and will be in-person for the first time since 2020. With over two thirds of the legislature being either newly elected or elected while only operating in a virtual manner, bill outreach and the stakeholder process will need to be learned. It’s possible that some of the behavioral health-focused bills that did not pass the 2022 Legislature will be reintroduced in this session. We’ll remain engaged with conversations around peer specialist policy, advocating that this important role’s scope be thoughtfully defined and nested within a care setting rather than allowed independent practice. We’ll also advocate for additional resources to be put toward incentivizing and retaining highly trained clinicians in the existing behavioral health professions rather than decreasing training standards. We will integrate themes of diversity and cultural attunement as we continue to build and maintain relationships and keep our profession visible.

Looking Back: 2022

In the 2022 Washington State Legislative Session, policymakers were particularly interested in addressing access to behavioral healthcare, and WAMFT supported increased socioemotional budget for schools and a Medicaid rate increase. Some proposed behavioral health-related legislation in 2022 had not received adequate input from the behavioral health professions to mitigate unintended negative consequences for the MFT and other professions. The bills which WAMFT expressed concerns about did not pass this legislative session. In addition, WAMFT advocated that the legislature find ways to invest in, incentivize, and retain highly qualified behavioral health workforce (i.e. masters’ & doctoral-level clinicians) through methods such as increasing reimbursement rates and subsidizing training rather than reducing training requirements and creating new professional categories with lesser-trained individuals. WAMFT’s 2022 Day on the Hill (February 17) was an important opportunity to speak directly with policymakers about the lived experience of practicing MFT in Washington, particularly during this challenging time.

In 2022, WAMFT continued to build relationships with other behavioral health professional organizations in Washington and regulatory institutions in order to align with other professions on important topics and maintain our profession’s visibility. WAMFT was invited to critical policy conversations: the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) asked WAMFT for input and engagement with insurance matters related to behavioral health in Washington, including behavioral health parity and the next day provision of HB 1477 “Implementing the national 988 system to enhance and expand behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention services,” particularly as relates to the inclusion of behavioral health emergency services in balance billing prohibition (E2SHB 1688). WAMFT was also asked by the University of Washington’s Behavioral Health Support Specialist Clinical Training Program to provide input on program development for Behavioral Health Support Specialists, which is being envisioned as a path to increasing diversity in the workforce as as well as a steppingstone to full licensure.

WAMFT shared member challenges with private insurance with the OiC lead policy staffer for use in future parity discussions. Key member concerns conveyed to the OIC included reimbursement rates that do not support cost of living, nonpayment due to EAP carveouts, tough negotiations with third party entities regarding reimbursement rates, long hours on hold to solve admin and billing issues, and lack of coverage for Z-Code (relational) diagnoses as well as other non-covered DSM-V diagnoses.

WAMFT attended Department of Health quarterly advisory committee meetings, rules workshops around minimum standards for equity in healthcare continuing education, and WAC rules revision workshops for WAC 246-809, rules specifically related to the practice of Marriage and Family Therapy and other behavioral health professions in Washington.

In 2022, WAMFT signed a letter with other professions opposing the use of behavioral health funding in schools to increase school resource officer presence, instead urging that the funds be used flexibly to hire additional types of behavioral health support staff within schools (such as school-based therapists).

WAMFT also obtained Foundational Funding from AAMFT to help offset 2023 advocacy costs.

Thank you for your support! We can’t do it without you!

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