PA 10-38—sHB 5286 (VETOED; OVERRIDDEN)

Public Health Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING LICENSURE OF MASTER AND CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKERS

SUMMARY: This act creates a new license category for certain social workers. The new category, called “master social worker,” is administered by the Department of Public Health (DPH). The act:

1. defines the practice of a master social worker,

2. requires practitioners to be licensed annually and establishes licensure requirements and fees,

3. allows for licensure by endorsement or licensure without examination in certain cases,

4. provides for one-time $50 temporary permits to practice,

5. prohibits independent practice after October 1, 2013,

6. specifies activities certain master social workers can do, and

7. establishes continuing education requirements.

DPH currently licenses clinical social workers and continues to do so under the act, with some changes concerning work experience requirements.

The act specifies that (1) DPH must issue licenses to master social workers only if appropriations are available and (2) no new regulatory board is established for master social workers if the licensure program is in fact implemented.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2010

MASTER SOCIAL WORKER

Terms and Definitions

Under the act, a licensed master social worker can practice clinical social work under the professional supervision of, and offer a mental health diagnosis in consultation with, a licensed physician, advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), psychologist, marital and family therapist, clinical social worker, or professional counselor. “Professional supervision” is face-to-face consultation consisting of at least a monthly review, a written evaluation, and assessment by the supervisor of the master social worker's practice of clinical social work.

The act specifies that a licensed clinical social worker can perform all the functions of a licensed master social worker and practice independently, but a licensed master social worker cannot engage in independent practice, except for a limited period (see below). “Independent practice” means the practice of clinical social work without supervision.

License Requirements

The act requires an applicant for a master social work license to (1) have a master's degree from a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or, if educated outside the United States or its territories, have completed an educational program the council deems equivalent and (2) pass the master-level examination of the Association of Social Work Boards or any other examination DPH prescribes.

The application fee for a master social work license is $220. (Existing law establishes a $315 fee for licensed clinical social workers. ) The annual renewal fee for both licenses is $190.

Licensure by Endorsement

The act allows the DPH commissioner to grant a license by endorsement to a master social work license applicant who (1) is licensed or certified as a master or clinical social worker in another state or jurisdiction whose practice requirements are substantially similar to or higher than Connecticut's and (2) has successfully completed the master-level examination of the Association of Social Work Boards or any other examination the commissioner prescribes. Existing law already allows for licensure by endorsement for clinical social workers. The act allows the commissioner to prescribe an alternative examination for clinical social workers.

He cannot issue a license to anyone who is facing disciplinary action or is the subject of an unresolved complaint.

Licensure without Examination

Prior to October 1, 2012, the act allows DPH to issue a license without examination to anyone who demonstrates to its satisfaction that, by October 1, 2010, he or she held a master's degree from a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or, if educated outside the United States or its territories, had completed an educational program the council deems equivalent.

Independent Practice

The act allows a master social worker (presumably one who is licensed as such) to engage in independent practice between October 1, 2010 and October 1, 2013. After October 1, 2013, a master social worker cannot engage in independent practice unless he or she is licensed as a clinical social worker.

Temporary Permit

The act allows DPH to issue a temporary permit to a license applicant who has a master's degree from an accredited or equivalent social work program but has not yet taken the required licensure examination. The temporary permit authorizes the holder to work under supervision as a master social worker for up to 120 calendar days from the date he or she receives the master's degree. A temporary permit is not renewable; it is void and cannot be reissued if the applicant fails the examination. The temporary permit fee is $50.

Title Protection

The act prohibits anyone from (1) using the title “licensed master social worker” or any initials associated with it or (2) advertising services under the description of a licensed master social worker, unless the individual has a master social worker license. The law already provides this protection for licensed clinical social workers.

Allowed Activities

The act specifies that it does not prohibit (1) a social worker from practicing community organization, policy and planning, research, or administration that does not involve engaging in clinical social work or supervising a social worker engaged in clinical treatment with clients or (2) individuals with a baccalaureate degree in social work from a Council on Social Work Education accredited program from performing nonclinical social work functions.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

New Requirements for Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Master Social Workers

By law, licensed clinical social workers must meet continuing education requirements to have their licenses renewed. Prior law authorized DPH to adopt regulations that define basic requirements for continuing education programs, delineate qualifying programs, establish a control and reporting system, and provide for waiving the requirements for good cause.

The act eliminates this provision and instead establishes statutory requirements for both licensed clinical and master social workers. (Some of the act's requirements reflect those in regulation. )

The act requires each type of social worker to complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education during each registration period. A “registration period” is the 12-month period for which a license is current and valid. The requirement for licensed master social workers begins on October 1, 2011. Continuing education must be related to the practice of social work and consist of courses, workshops, and conferences offered or approved by the Association of Social Work Boards, the National Association of Social Workers, or a school or department of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

A person can take up to six hours of on-line and home study continuing education per registration period. During the registration period, an initial presentation by a licensee of an original paper, essay, or formal lecture in social work to a recognized group of fellow professionals may account for five continuing education hours.

Each licensee must get a certificate of completion from the continuing education provider for all hours successfully completed. He or she must retain these certificates for at least three years following the license renewal date for which the activity satisfies the continuing education requirement. The licensee must submit the certificate to DPH upon request. A licensee failing to comply with the continuing education requirements may be subject to DPH disciplinary action, including license revocation or suspension, censure, letter of reprimand, placement on probation, or a civil penalty.

Professional Educator Certificates

Existing law allows a licensed clinical social worker who also holds a State Board of Education professional educator certificate with a school social worker endorsement to meet continuing education requirements for social workers by completing continuing education activities required for the educator certificate. The number of continuing education hours for maintaining the educator certificate must equal that required for clinical social worker continuing education over a one-year period.

The act continues to recognize this professional educator certificate-related continuing education and applies it to both licensed clinical and master social workers.

Exemptions from Continuing Education

A licensee applying for his or her first renewal is exempt from the continuing education requirements. DPH may grant a waiver from the requirements or a time extension to a licensee who has a medical disability or illness. The licensee must apply for a waiver or extension to DPH and submit any documentation the department requires. The waiver or extension cannot exceed one registration period. DPH may grant additional waivers or extensions if the initial reason for the waiver or extension continues beyond the waiver or extension period.

DPH may also grant a continuing education waiver to a licensee who is not engaged in social work during a given registration period if the licensee requests a waiver before the continuing education period expires.

A licensee granted a continuing education waiver must complete seven hours of continuing education within six months from the date on which he or she returned to active practice and must comply with the certificate of completion requirements.

Reinstatement of a Void License

A licensee whose license is void because of failure to renew and who applies to DPH for reinstatement must submit evidence documenting that he or she has successfully completed seven hours of continuing education within the one-year period immediately preceding the date he or she applied for reinstatement.

LICENSED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKERS

By law, licensed clinical social workers must (1) have a doctorate or master's degree from a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or, if educated outside of the United States or its territories, have completed an educational program deemed equivalent by the council; (2) have 3,000 hours of post-master's social work experience, which must include at least 100 hours of work under professional supervision by a licensed clinical or certified independent social worker; and (3) pass the clinical level examination of the American Association of State Social Work Boards (the act changes this name to Association of Social Work Boards) or any other examination prescribed by DPH (CGS 20-195n).

The act specifies that beginning October 1, 2011, any work experience hours required for licensure as a clinical social worker completed in Connecticut must be as a licensed master social worker.

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