FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Mallory Strain 978-228-1233 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, May 23rd
– HAVERHILL – Today, Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill) and Representative Ryan Hamilton (D-Methuen) filed legislation to expand mental health licensure opportunities for school counselors in Massachusetts. The bill is sponsored in the Massachusetts Senate by Senator Pavel Payano (D-Lawrence) and is supported by The Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium (MASMHC.) The bills aim to address current concerns with the state’s licensure system. The current system for licensure makes it exceedingly difficult for school counselors to become licensed mental health counselors (LMHC.) This limits dual licensure opportunities for counselors and contributes to the shortage of licensed mental health counselors in Massachusetts. This system also limits the amount of federal funding that can be drawn down for mental health services in schools.
HD4357/S210 would address this problem by streamlining the process for guidance counselors to pursue dual licensure. These bills would allow licensed guidance counselors to count previously completed coursework toward the LMHC requirements. The bills would also allow time that guidance counselors spend in schools providing certain behavioral health services to count as hours toward requirements for LMHC licensure. In doing so, these changes would reflect the reality that many of the services currently provided by school counselors are similar to those of community-based mental health services. The bills would maintain the same requirements for licensed mental health counselors while providing a reasonable path for guidance counselors to pursue dual licensure. This will address the acute shortage of licensed mental health counselors in our state and expand services available to students.
In addition to expanding the pool of licensed mental health counselors in schools, these changes would allow schools to tap into additional Medicaid reimbursement funds. Licensed mental health counselors provide services that are eligible for reimbursement from Medicaid. This will allow schools to access more federal funding, granting them the opportunity to expand services for students.
“Mental health services must be treated as an essential part of preparing students for learning. We are seeing a mental health crisis that has touched all of our lives, and our youth are bearing the brunt of it. Aligning and expanding licensure opportunities for counselors will address a key need: more licensed mental health counselors in schools. It will also draw down more funding to expand services that are so critically needed, particularly as we recover from the pandemic. I’m proud to work alongside Rep. Hamilton and Senator Payano on this timely issue.” - Representative Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill)
“In talking with residents in Haverhill and Methuen, it is clear to me that mental health is a major concern in our community – especially with our young people. Initiatives to expand the number of mental health professionals in our schools are critical to meeting the mental health care needs of students now and building out greater systems of support. In partnering with Rep. Vargas and Sen. Payano, I hope to highlight the acute need for this type of legislation not only in Haverhill and the Merrimack Valley, but across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” - Representative Ryan Hamilton (D-Methuen)
"Senate Bill 210 seeks to address the shortage of mental health professionals in our public schools and expand access to essential services. Current strict licensing requirements hinder qualified school counselors from practicing despite their education and experience. This piece of legislation aims to expand licensure for school counselors thereby increasing the pool of available mental health professionals. By empowering school counselors as licensed mental health counselors, they can better serve students in-need." - Senator Pavel Payano