District of Columbia Enacts Licensure Law: Advocacy Results in Elimination of Physician Referrals in Bill Licensure for the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology became law March 4 in Washington, DC. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists will have one year from the time licensure regulations are finalized to obtain a license. The Council of the District of Columbia passed the legislation Dec. 5, 2006, ending a ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   March 01, 2007
District of Columbia Enacts Licensure Law: Advocacy Results in Elimination of Physician Referrals in Bill
Author Notes
  • Dee Naquin Shafer, is an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader. Contact her at dshafer@asha.org.
    Dee Naquin Shafer, is an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader. Contact her at dshafer@asha.org.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   March 01, 2007
District of Columbia Enacts Licensure Law: Advocacy Results in Elimination of Physician Referrals in Bill
The ASHA Leader, March 2007, Vol. 12, 1-18. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.12042007.1
The ASHA Leader, March 2007, Vol. 12, 1-18. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.12042007.1
Licensure for the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology became law March 4 in Washington, DC. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists will have one year from the time licensure regulations are finalized to obtain a license.
The Council of the District of Columbia passed the legislation Dec. 5, 2006, ending a campaign that began more than a year earlier. Monica Connors, then-president of the District of Columbia Speech-Language- Hearing Association (DCSHA), began working with ASHA in October 2005 on the pending legislation. The two associations worked together successfully to amend the original legislation to ensure the law would be consistent with similar provisions in other jurisdictions.
“Our biggest challenge was the communication between DCSHA/ASHA and the DC Council,” Connors said. “It was not until very late in the process that we realized otolaryngologists had their own interests in mind. The pivotal meeting was with the DC Department of Health.”
The bill as originally drafted would have required physician referral for dysphagia as well as vestibular testing and tinnitus. In addition, the bill did not include a clinical fellowship requirement. Physicians were successful early in the legislative process in adding language that would have placed two otolaryngologists on the licensure board.
The inclusion of two otolaryngologists on a speech-language pathology/audiology licensure board of this size would have been unprecedented in the United States. After DCSHA and ASHA contacted each of the DC Council members individually and met with the head of the DC Department of Health, the number of otolaryngologists on the board was reduced from two to one. In addition, the final version of the bill removed the physician referral requirements and added a clinical fellowship requirement.
School System Exempt
To be licensed in DC, clinicians must hold a master’s or doctoral degree in speech-language pathology or audiology. They also must have passed a national exam and completed a clinical fellowship program. The two-year license will cost $175.
The regulations, which are published by the DC Department of Health for 30 days following the effective date of the law, are expected to be finalized in April. SLPs and audiologists have a year from the date of finalization to comply. Information will be available at www.hpla.doh.dc.gov in April.
Licensure is necessary to protect consumers and the professions by preventing unqualified individuals from providing speech-language pathology or audiology services, Connors said. Due to shortages of SLPs and audiologists in the school system, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) is exempt from the legislation, a common practice nationwide, she added. However, independent contractors or those who work for a contracting company and provide services to DCPS children must be licensed. DCSHA will post a link to its Web site for applications and more details. Information currently is available at www.hpla.doh.dc.gov.
DCSHA is a small association run entirely by volunteers, Connors noted, expressing gratitude to ASHA for help in moving the legislation forward. The National Council of State Boards of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology as well as the Maryland Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology also assisted with official letters of support for the DCSHA/ASHA amendments to the DC bill. All 50 states and the District of Columbia now regulate audiology, while 47 states and the District of Columbia regulate speech-language pathology.
For further information, contact Susan Pilch, ASHA’s director of state legislative and regulatory advocacy, at spilch@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 4284.
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March 2007
Volume 12, Issue 4