A bill affecting many mental health providers was signed by Governor Hickenlooper. Effective January 1, 2017, House Bill 16-1103 Concerning Clarifying License Pathways for the Mental Health Professional Workforce will affect psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, and any other individual who is actively working toward licensure and is enrolled in a professional training program at an approved school. DORA supported the bill as part of its ongoing initiative to streamline the application process, reduce regulatory burden, and move qualified professionals into the workforce more quickly to increase access to mental health services.
A key component of the legislation clarifies that graduates must “have completed” their degrees (rather than "hold") in order to fulfill the educational requirements for licensure. This change will expedite the licensure process significantly. Often times, new graduates do not receive, or “hold” their actual degree certificate for many weeks after graduation. As a result, they must wait to apply, even if they have a job offer. With this change, applications can be submitted with an unofficial transcript or a letter from the academic program as soon as an applicant completes a graduate program.
In addition, the bill seeks to clarify the recommended pathway a student should take for licensure in Colorado. For instance, the legislation clarifies that students participating in internships do not need to register with DORA as registered psychotherapists. However, as soon as they hold their degree, they are encouraged to register as a candidate under the board that will govern their licensure. This type of clarification helps simplify the process and reduces the regulatory burden on students.
The bill was brought forward by the Colorado Counseling Association and the Colorado Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, with support from Mental Health Colorado, the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, and other mental health professional associations. In addition, the bill received bipartisan, unanimous support in both the House and Senate. Mental health professionals who want to follow the implementation process should check their respective Board websites for updated information beginning June 1, 2016.