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.
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.”