Please check back as this post will be expanded as I figure out how to articulate the various items that were addressed.
Overall, the public comment portion of the meeting went very much like we would have wanted it to. I was unable to see the Board meeting portion, and will be adding commentary from therapists who were in the near future.
The public comment section opened with a fairly long description of what these changes were intended to do. The Educational standard changes were intended to reduce attrition, as our state is well above average (15% compared to a national attrition of 5-7%). The establishment license is intended to give the Board jurisdiction over CLINICS instead of only individual therapists.
Neither of these changes are ones we object to. It is the manner in which these changes will be regulated that is problematic.
The first part of the public speaking forum addressed the educational changes. Two members of the original Board spoke against these changes, calling it “a solution in search of a problem”. Several people spoke as to concerns that the changes would be lowering the standards for Continuing Education, and not expanding their availability. One gentleman spoke in favor of the changes as a way for him, as a single father, to have greater access. A continuing education teacher spoke after him and suggested that a pilot program or a program under existing teachers might be appropriate. Overall, the feeling was that the goal was noble, but there are compromises that need to be made to keep it up to standard, IF it was determined that these changes were within the scope of the new law, which was in doubt.
The second part was to address the establishment license. The first person to address the Board was a representative of the Health and Human Services Division. His statement indicated that they have no standards for inspecting a massage therapy clinic, and would therefore be unable to perform such inspections as the Board had ordered. He “respectfully request[ed] that they withdraw that portion of the requirements”. Several people spoke to the difficulties of acquiring or maintaining the license and the fact that attrition would be much higher if these regulations passed. Several representatives from Massage Envy (two attorneys and two owners) spoke against the license, which I personally did not expect. A representative of the Merchant Association spoke against the regulations that would have an effect on small local businesses. Several clients spoke, including a veteran using massage to control his PTSD related anxiety, and voiced their concerns on what these regulations might do to their health care access. Concerns regarding expense, timing, the definition of a clinic requiring a license, whether sufficient research into successful licensing programs had been researched, and necessity or relation to human trafficking were voiced. Overall, the feeling was while the necessity of the license was understood, the regulations as proposed were overreach on the part of the Board.
The final section of the public address was to voice other concerns. A few people returned to peripheral concerns regarding the establishment license. Concerns regarding privacy and protection in the case of reporting a on compliant clinic were especially noted, as many of these illicit touch and human trafficking locations are tied to larger criminal organizations. The Board has sold therapists’ contact information in the past to mailing services, and the fears that this combined with required inclusion of the reporting persons’ information might be putting therapists at personal risk. One woman spoke about reporting a colleague who had a lapsed license, and was at the time assured that her name would not be brought up; but apparently it was and she had significant fallout to deal with from her colleague. Several people felt that this put therapists in a rock or a hard place situation; either you reported and hoped that your information was kept secure, or you didn’t report and hoped that your license was not at risk from the board’s discipline.
Several times during this section and the previous, the establishment requirement for minimum room size was brought up. The attorney for the Board reiterated that this rule was probably going to be dismissed once the public comment period had expired. A therapist spoke after this, explaining that many therapists felt ‘betrayed’ and that the Board had not consulted enough sources when creating these rules. Several therapists and guests spoke regarding the apparent lack of research on establishment licenses. Although assured by the attorney that they had, the general feel of the room was doubtful and distrustful.
An important note: although the AMTA NC sent representatives, they did not speak. In reply to a comment on their Facebook page, they said ” As each one of the board members for the NCBMBT know each one of us (the AMTA board) both personally and professionally we did not want the opinions of the one (being ourselves) be mistaken for the opinions of the many (AMTA as a whole).” As I can personally see several ways around this without straining myself, I will be writing a review with my opinion. You can also let them know your opinion by leaving a review here: https://www.facebook.com/amtanc/ or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in commenting on the regulations proposed by the board, you can check out a summary in our previous blog posts and a sample letter here. Additional topics to address may include asking the Board to show their work regarding research into other states’ establishment license programs, clarifying whether or not the Board can do public education (as the attorney contradicted himself within minutes), and asking how the decision regarding Continuing Education as the result of attrition came ot be. The public comment period is open until early May.
The matter of this meeting was reported on at least 3 local news channels. Additional links will be provided soon. Please check back if you have interest in the media response.