The Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP) appears determined to go forward with it’s ambitious and comprehensive legislation, voting unanimously on Thursday, January 28, to begin the search for a legislator to sponsor their changes to the psychology practice law for the 2021 legislative session.
If passed, the LSBEP’S legislation will make sweeping changes, including registering
assistants, expanding the board’s charter, expanding legal authority of employees, adding more fees, changing the scope of practice, modifying board composition, and exempting investigations from Open Meetings Laws. The new law also gives the board the authority to conduct and sell continuing education.
In the new law, psychologists would be required to seek the board’s approval for any assistant who is helping the psychologist provide services to patients or clients. This
would include any clinical, family, or organizational setting, including government. The yearly fee is up to $75 per assistant.
Included is the requirement that the assistant initiate a criminal background report from the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information
The board would approve the assistant’s training, qualifications, and services to be provided. The board can deny or revoke the registration of the assistant at any time that it receives reliable information that the assistant is causing harm to clients or patients, or likely to, or is unethical or unprofessional.
The new law also gives the board authority to collect an array of new fees. These
include up to $250 for preapproval of continuing education courses. Also they can charge up to $200 for authorization to conduct tele-supervision, to authorize an inactive status or renewal, or to authorize emeritus status and renewal. The board appears
to be intending to provide continuing professional development with a charge of up to $200 per continuing unit.
According to the draft of proposed legislation, the board will be creating new committees that may operate with full authority of the board for complaints
procedures and disciplinary actions, to perform tasks such as creating subpoenas
and summary suspension authority.
The board will add the ability to restrict a license along with the current law for suspension are revoking. Also added in new language, the board is to communicate violations to the District Attorney.
Under scope of practice the board is adding language for: • psychological test development; • provision of direct services to individuals or groups for the purpose of
enhancing individual and organizational effectiveness; • using psychological principles,
methods and procedures to assess and evaluate individuals for the purpose of rendering an expert opinion or diagnosis in a legal setting; and • supervision and consultation related to any of the services described in the current law. How much authority they have over individuals doing psychological research appears to be in question at this point based on discussions on Thursday.
The new language affirms that psychological services may be rendered to persons
throughout their life time including families, groups, institutions, organizations, and the public.
The board creates language that removes transparency having to do with
investigations. “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 [….] All records in connection with any investigation by the board are confidential.”
The Times asked Dr. Kim VanGeffen, chair of Professional Affairs for the Louisiana Psychological Association, if the legislation put forth by the psychology board, and explained as “housekeeping” legislation, was actually housekeeping?
“This legislation opens up the Psychology Practice Act in order to make changes.
The proposed changes include some items which could be considered ‘housekeeping,” Dr. VanGeffen said. Housekeeping items consist of changes in language to fit with current practices or statutes. Correcting errors, clarifying or updating information, changing numbers or letters of items in the Act would also be considered housekeeping
“[the legislation] includes other changes which go beyond housekeeping changes and are more fundamental modifications to the practice of psychology in Louisiana,” she said.
“Drs. Matthew Holcomb and Erin Reuther and I represented LPA on this Committee. During these meetings, LPA’s representatives have been encouraged to and have
offered a great deal of input about the legislation. Some of the concerns raised by the
LPA members resulted in changes to the legislation. There are some areas in which the LPA representatives continue to have concerns or disagreements with what is in the legislation.”
“LSBEP put for this legislation last year. LPA was not involved in the development of that bill. Because of the corona virus, the Louisiana legislature only addressed a very limited number of bills during last year’s legislative session. LSBEP’s bill was not addressed last year.
Members of the psychological community may have had access to that bill although I
would doubt that most psychologists were aware of this legislation,” Dr. VanGeffen said. “When the Ad Hoc Collaborative Committee was formed, it was agreed that the Committee members would not distribute the bill we were discussing until it was in its
Dr. Greg Gormanous, Chair of Legislative Affairs for LSBEP, said to attendees at the Thursday online meeting, that he was comfortable that “…we have honored the agreement,” to reach consensus with representatives of the community.
I would strongly urge the the writers of these articles to look into the court transcripts pertaining to when a unanimous jury awarded a victim of Cerwonka’s $1.15 million.
See for yourselves how much of a danger this man is to the public, and then maybe offer up with some tangible actions that you believe could be taken to protect patients from this kind of gross abuse and behavior.