Imagine telling your client that, as their trusted therapist, you are not able to schedule an appointment with them if they 1) relocate to another state, even if just across the border; 2) go on an extended vacation, or live seasonally in the state you’re practicing in; 3) attend college or school in Maine but go home to another state on breaks; or even if they 4) have a medical need to be treated in another state.

Continuation of care is so essential in a therapeutic relationship. Current laws in many states prohibit making appointments with people who are not in the state where the therapist is physically located or licensed. This is the very costly reason I must hold a social work license in multiple states to offer telehealth appointments to many of my clients.

A sample conversation with a client: “So sorry, I cannot help you right now as I am not licensed in the state you are in. When will you be back in Maine? Weeks, maybe a month or two? Do you have access to another therapist until you return to Maine? Oh, you’re right. All states are suffering right now with a shortage of mental health professionals. Maybe when the Social Work Interstate Compact gets passed in Maine, and a few additional states, we will have access to specialists out of state that are part of the compact.”

Maine State Representative Lydia Crafts, herself a social worker, is the sponsor of L.D. 2140, “An Act to Enact the Interstate Social Work Licensure Compact,” co-sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross and several other representatives from diverse backgrounds. I hope Maine will pass this legislation and become one of the first states, like Missouri, to join the commission overseeing the compact. An example of a successful compact can be seen by your driver’s license, which allows you to drive across state borders but still be subject to laws and regulations as agreed on in all states. Occupational interstate licensing compacts exist here in Maine for psychologists, nurses, physicians, speech pathologists, physical therapists and professional counselors. Now is the time for Maine to be part of the Social Work Interstate Compact.

The Council of State Governments received funding through the United States Department of Defense and then partnered with the Association of Social Work Boards, the Clinical Social Work Association, the National Association of Social Workers and licensed social workers from around the country to develop the current draft language of an interstate compact for licensure portability. All parties want to improve access to services, mobility, and licensure portability. The bill in Maine matches what is being voted on in other states.

Passing this legislation matters this year; not only will Maine have a seat on the commission overseeing the compact, it also will give our licensees the chance to serve more people. New licensees from other states in the compact can serve the people of Maine from their home state, providing access to specialists out of state. L.D. 2140 will help to promote relocating easily to Maine and keeping social workers’ licenses active. L.D. 2140 is good for military social workers, their families and the clients they serve. Maine must join the Social Work Compact and support clients from across New England and the country in maintaining access to the high-quality behavioral health services that social workers provide.

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