Mission

To provide support and services to the social work regulatory community to advance safe, competent, and ethical practices to strengthen public protection.

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ASWB commends the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council for the thoughtful and intentional way that the council managed competing demands of policy and social justice. BHEC members took time to respond to the public concerns and comments, weighed several policy options to remain in compliance with their mandate, and stayed true to their mission of public protection. The decision to reinstate nondiscrimination protections for people based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability in the social work Code of Conduct illustrates the council’s ongoing commitment to public protection for all people.
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Among the benefits of ASWB’s Board Member Exchange meetings is the opportunity for member board members to share successes and challenges with one another and gain new perspectives. The September 2020 virtual BMX produced an exchange between two members who are geographically distant but close together in concerns.
John Shalett, chair of the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners, reported that his board was opening the practice act to propose new language (in bold) that would allow ““the attorney general or other approved legal counsel” to “prosecute complaints before the board on behalf of the state.” Ginny Dickman, a member of the Idaho Board of Social Work Examiners, was quick to support the Louisiana board’s efforts, noting that the Idaho board successfully added an independent prosecutor seven years ago after experiencing backlogs that resulted when the attorney general’s office turned its attention to other matters. “We are lucky to have the freedom to decide who to hire,” Dickman said. “We are able to use private firms with expertise in regulatory law.”
In Louisiana, however, a change to law is required to solve the concerns that the Louisiana board began to have last year with the backlog of complaints at the attorney general’s office. Shalett attributed the difficulty in resolving the complaints to both logistics and substance of the cases being forwarded for review and recommended action.
Moderator Shelley Hale of Ontario summed up the the feeling in the virtual meeting room: "Regulation has not been boring."
In the fall of 2019, the board appointed an interorganizational committee of social workers from among academics, clinicians, and social work agency administrators and co-chaired by the immediate past executive director of the NASW-Louisiana chapter and the current dean of the school of social work at Southern University of New Orleans. Shalett added, “The current NASW chapter executive director was a vital member of the committee as were the president of the Louisiana Association of Clinical Social Workers and a representative of the Louisiana Association of Black Social Workers.” After the initial phase of work was completed, the committee held town hall meetings across the state, receiving valuable input and comments. The work of this committee became the “backbone of the proposals for introduction of the Revision of the Practice Act and Revised Statutes,” Shalett said.
The bill was scheduled to go before the legislature in April 2020. Due to COVID-19, however, the bill was deferred to the April 2021 legislative session, Shalett said.
While Idaho accomplished the goal of hiring an independent prosecutor and reducing its backlog years ago, Dickman shared news of a more recent change to her board’s work. A 2017 governor’s executive order reflected citizen concerns that licensing requirements were restricting people from joining professions. The order resulted in a major review of all Idaho professional and occupational licensing boards, launching a recently concluded process of streamlining regulation and reorganizing the structure of regulatory boards. Every regulatory board was required to justify the need to license and regulate its practitioners. “It was easy for the social work board,” Dickman said. “Our answers to the governor's questions demonstrated a strong need for regulation.” With all the reports in hand, Governor Brad Little formed a committee to review professional and occupational regulation.
Though the report-writing and review process created stress and work for board members, Dickman says the result benefited both the board and licensees. “The committee looked at every rule and law,” she said. “If a rule duplicated a law, they got rid of the rule. Our rules shrank by 40 percent and became less complicated and easier to understand.” And even though many rules disappeared, every one of them can be found in law. “It worked,” Dickman says. “We thought it would be a killer, but it turned out to be an asset.”
The exchange between Dickman and Shalett was just a small piece of a larger opportunity for regulatory shoptalk for ASWB members across North America who participated in the September virtual BMX.
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Since mid-March, the Member Engagement and Regulatory Services department has assisted dozens of members and stakeholders with issues related to licensing exceptions in response to the public health emergency. But while COVID-19 may have temporarily reoriented their focus, the work of social work regulators has not stopped. In addition to the day-to-day work of administering regulations, members continue to advance regulatory and legislative initiatives. Over the past several months, ASWB staff have reviewed proposed initiatives and provided information to members on a variety of issues not related to COVID-19. Staff uses data compiled in the Laws and Regulations database and conducts additional research when needed to assist with member requests. The Model Social Work Practice Act informs ASWB’s review and comment on all proposed initiatives.

Examples of member support over the last several months include:

  • The Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners recently adopted a rules package, published in the September 30 edition of the Alabama Administrative Monthly. ASWB contributed beginning a year ago with a visit to the board’s office for a working session to rewrite the regulations. ASWB staff then provided information on private practice and masters licensure along with examples of scopes of practice in states that permit masters licensees not seeking the clinical license to perform aspects of clinical social work.
  • In New Mexico, a task force has been formed to reduce barriers to licensure for all regulated behavioral health professions. ASWB shared sample laws and regulations in states following best practices for licensure by endorsement and provided the board with ASWB’s comprehensive mobility resources.
  •  New York’s State Board for Social Work is exploring a lifetime limit for exam attempts because of a policy change in another profession. In New York, change in policy for any one of the 54 professions regulated by the Board of Regents affects all regulated professions. ASWB provided information on state social work exam policies to assist with the ongoing discussions.
  • Pennsylvania’s State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors has released a draft of new rules and is inviting comments on proposed general revisions to social work regulations. The rulemaking updates the board’s regulations to conform with current practices. Topics addressed include license qualifications, supervised clinical practice experience requirements, and the use of electronic media to facilitate supervision, continuing education, and endorsement. ASWB has reviewed and commented on the proposed rule changes.
  •  ASWB reviewed proposed rules, published in April, for Texas’s newly formed Behavioral Health Executive Council. The council was created in 2019 and was authorized to regulate all behavioral health professions including social work. The regulations implemented the legislative mandate.
  •  ASWB responded to questions from the West Virginia legislature, cautioning against the use of the Bachelors exam for the evaluation of non-social work credentialed individuals. The legislature’s interest stems from a 2018 sunset review of the West Virginia Board of Social Work; a final report is pending.
  •  The Wyoming Mental Health Professions Licensing Board has introduced changes to regulations governing Certified Social Workers (bachelors practice). ASWB reviewed the proposed changes and submitted a letter of support. The rule changes will update CSW scope of practice definitions, require supervision of bachelors licensees, and restrict the practice of clinical social work to Licensed Clinical Social Workers.

ASWB is proud to work in partnership with members. Do not hesitate to reach out for assistance from ASWB. Whether a member needs a brainstorming discussion, policy information adopted by all member boards, or specific examples of regulations addressing an issue of concern, ASWB is here to help.
Contact Jennifer Henkel, senior director of member engagement and regulatory services, or Cara Sanner, regulatory support services coordinator.
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