Psych Board’s Ambitious SB 458 Filed in March

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A 23–page document, Senate Bill 458, outlining an ambitious set of changes to the psychology practice law was introduced on March 31. The legislative effort was initiated by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP) and is authored by Senator Jay Luneau from Alexandria.

If passed SB 458 will make sweeping changes to the psychology law including a new set of regulations for assistants, additions to the charter of the board, changing qualifications for serving, authorizing the board to conduct continuing education, exempting the board from Open Meetings Law for investigatory meetings, and formally establishing the position and duties of the Executive Director.

The measure is on hold after officers from the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) For Now, Behavior is the Key attended the public meeting of the board, held on Zoom, Friday, April 3, and raised objections. Attendees included current President Alan Coulter, President-Elect Erin Reuther, and Chair for Professional Affairs, Kim VanGeffen.

Following discussion on several matters regarding both how the bill was initiated and the content of the specific changes, Dr. Greg Gormanous, Chair of Legislative Affairs for LSBEP, put forth a motion to establish an Ad Hoc Legislative Collaborative Committee composed of members from LPA, the Louisiana School Psychological Association, and the Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologists.

After discussion with LPA Pres. Alan Coulter, Dr. Gormanous also put forth a second motion to agree that SB 458 would not proceed forward unless and until participants in the Collaborative Committee arrived at a consensus, through good faith efforts.

The Times asked Dr. Gormanous, if the board had contacted any citizen in or citizen groups, for initiating legislation. He replied no. The Times also asked if the board had conducted a formal vote about filing legislation to which Dr. Gormanous also answered no.

SB 458 covers a variety of changes to the practice act. One of the significant areas a new category of “Registered Assistant to Psychologist.” This is to be, “§2356.4. Assistants to psychologists; registration, supervision, renewal, lapse, termination, reinstatement, and scope of practice.”

New language includes the following: “B. Upon employment of an assistant to psychologists, but prior to performance of psychological duties by the assistant to psychologists, the psychologist of record who is licensed under the provisions of this Chapter shall submit a complete application for registration, the registration fee, and other information as may be required by the board. The application fee for registration of an assistant to psychologist shall not exceed one hundred dollars.”

The board’s criteria for issuing a certificate of registration as an assistant to psychologist includes

“(5) Possess minimum qualifications commensurate with the services to be provided by the registrant as defined in the rules and regulations of the board.

“(6) Has supervised training commensurate with the services to be performed by the registrant as defined in the rules and regulations of the board.

“E. (1) The services and duties of a person registered under this Section as an assistant to psychologists is limited to psychological services authorized by the board, that are commensurate with their education and training, and under the direct and continuous supervision of the psychologist of record who is licensed under this Chapter.

“J. (1) The board may deny or revoke a registration that is in the best interest of public, health, safety, and welfare for any unethical, unlawful or other unprofessional conduct brought to the attention of the board under the jurisdiction of this Chapter. […]

“L. (1) The psychologist of record shall, during the month of July of each year, beginning in the year immediately subsequent to the initial registration of the assistant to psychologist, submit to the board a renewal application as prescribed by the board and renewal fee. The renewal fee shall be determined annually by the board and shall not exceed seventy-five dollars.

“N. The provisions of this Section shall not apply to medical psychologists utilizing assistants under the provisions of R.S. 37:1360.61 under jurisdiction of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.”

The new legislation would also make additions and changes to “Practice of psychology,” including:

“(a) Psychological research…

“(b) Psychological research and test development.

“(h) Provision of direct services to individuals or groups for the purpose of enhancing individual and organizational effectiveness.

“(i) Using psychological principles, methods and procedures to assess and evaluate individuals for the purpose of rendering an expert opinion and diagnosis in a legal setting.

“(j) Using psychological principles, methods, and procedures to assess and evaluate an individuals’ personal characteristics for individual development or behavior change or for making decisions about the individual.

“(k) Supervision and consultation related to any of the services described in this Chapter. […]

“Psychological services may be offered in a variety of settings including, but not limited to private and public clinics, hospitals, schools, universities, legal settings, that include civil, criminal and family court, and prison systems, government organizations and departments.”

The LSBEP also proposes to change the qualifications for board members, and remove the wording for board members to have practiced “for at least five years.” Then they seek to add the following: (b) No more than two early career psychologists shall hold a seat on the board at any given time.

Also under §2353, regarding organization, the proposal would make formal the position of executive director.

“(3) The board shall appoint an executive director who shall be an unclassified employee of the state. The executive director shall receive a salary determined by the board along with reimbursement for the actual and reasonable expenses approved by the board, in connection with the performance of official duties […].”

A listing of the duties includes: the daily operations of the board and implementation of board policy, the supervision and direction of all employees of the board, and the performance of complaint investigations.

Also under the section on organization, the board seeks to expand its charter. Some of the new duties are:

. “(8) Administer oaths, in the taking of testimony at any hearing before the board or appoint a designee by resolution or contract to administer oaths upon any matters relative to the duties of the board or violation of this Chapter.

“(9) Issue subpoena or appoint a designee by resolution, to require attendance, testimony, and the production of documents to enforce the laws and rules relative to the practice of psychology and to secure evidence of violations thereof.

“(10) Take emergency action in accordance with the provisions of R.S. 49:961: (a) If the board finds that the public health, safety, and welfare require emergency action and incorporates a finding to that effect in its order, a summary suspension, revocation or other action. […] (b) The board may delegate by resolution to the executive committee, the authority to issue an order of summary suspension when it is determined that the public health, safety and welfare requires emergency action. […]

“(13) Establish an executive committee with authority to establish through formal action to execute certain tasks and duties of the board, including but not limited to issuing subpoena and summary suspension authority, and utilized to facilitate the proper functioning of the board.

“(15) Provide education to licensees and to the public relating to the purpose of the board, applicable laws and rules, and public health, safety, and welfare as it pertains to the practice of psychology.”

SB 458 also lists numerous changes in authority to collect fees and to exempt meetings of the investigatory process from Open Meetings Law. The new language would be, “All proceedings in connection with any investigation by the board shall be conducted in closed session, and are exempt from the provisions of the Public Meetings Law pursuant to R.S. 42:17(A)(4).”

SB 458 can be found at https://legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx? d=1168057

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