Indiana Clinicians Achieve Key Legislative Repeal Law Curtailed SLPs’ Scope of Practice in Schools Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   December 01, 2007
Indiana Clinicians Achieve Key Legislative Repeal
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, is an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader. Contact her at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, is an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader. Contact her at sboswell@asha.org.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   December 01, 2007
Indiana Clinicians Achieve Key Legislative Repeal
The ASHA Leader, December 2007, Vol. 12, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.12172007.4
The ASHA Leader, December 2007, Vol. 12, 4. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.12172007.4
Indiana speech-language pathologists are celebrating an advocacy victory 10 years in the making—the repeal of legislation that permitted the creation of a restricted test list (RTL) and severely curtailed the scope of practice in conducting school-based speech-language assessments.
The law, which took effect July 1, ends the authority of the Indiana Board of Psychology to create an RTL by eliminating language originally included in a 1997 mental health professional licensure law. Although the language has been in the statute for a decade, an RTL was never successfully adopted, despite multiple attempts.
The RTL was originally intended as a compromise. Three mental health professions—mental health counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists—could receive licensure, but with the agreement that the Psychology Board could develop a list of tests that only psychologists could administer, said Mark Scherer, a lobbyist with Beebe, Scherer & Associates. He noted that although it was understood that the RTL would be short, the first draft emerged with 300 tests—including speech and language assessments.
“The RTL was going to restrict our scope of practice because it would eliminate tests we use to evaluate children and adults,” said Mary Jo Germani, president of the Indiana Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ISHLA). “It also would mean that psychologists would oversee all of our work because the tests would be restricted to use by psychologists only.” She added that past ISHLA presidents Ann Bilodeau and Kay Olges were also involved in the advocacy campaign.
The restrictions would have applied primarily to school-based SLPs who hold a teacher’s license, while those holding a health care license would have been exempt. The RTL included tests often used by SLPs, such as the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, as well as several assessments that were developed by SLPs. “Each year, the list would change, often without any rationale,” Germani said. “It made no sense. The list also included tests that were no longer in print.
“We knew this was an important issue, and that this was bigger than any one association could deal with,” Germani said.
Strength in Numbers
The 16,000 Indiana professionals affected by the RTL joined forces in a statewide coalition of SLPs, physical therapists, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and social workers. A national non-profit organization known as FACT—Fair Access Coalition on Testing—coordinated the effort. FACT is a multi-disciplinary coalition of 16 organizations and credentialing bodies that advocate for health care and educational professionals to administer and interpret tests for which they have been properly trained. ASHA is a member of FACT and has a representative on the FACT board.
FACT held periodic conference calls, and the local coalition researched each of the tests to determine which professionals could administer the assessment with proper training and to identify the test developer and the developer’s credentials.
Each month the legislature was in session, the local representative groups—including the clinical psychologists—came to the negotiating table to resolve differences. “Throughout the process we were professional and ethical. We took the high road,” Germani said.
Scherer tracked the status of the legislation and alerted coalition members at key junctures. The Psychology Board tried to adopt the RTL on three separate occasions. The first time, it was defeated because of a procedural flaw. The second time, the RTL went all the way to the governor; members of the local associations flooded the governor’s office with letters and e-mails urging its defeat. The governor rejected the rule because of concerns raised.
Persistence Pays Off
In the end, persistence was the key to success as coalition members stood united for a decade, working to repeal the legislation. “The biggest challenge was overturning an existing law that was already on the books,” Scherer noted.
“We tried to educate legislators that this was an inappropriate and excessive approach to what was needed to protect the public,” Scherer said. “We pointed out that in the 10 years that the law was on the books, there were no complaints about improper test use.”
Coalition members won an increasing number of legislators over with information about consumer protections in place against unethical providers—successfully challenging a key rationale for the legislation. The coalition pointed out that the licensing boards are a mechanism for monitoring professional conduct and have a role in adjudicating consumer complaints, with the power to revoke a professional’s license to practice.
“Representatives realized that consumer-protection mechanisms were already in place, making the restricted test list unnecessary,” Germani said. “By eliminating the restricted test list, professionals were able to evaluate consumers in a very efficient manner. With the list in place, there was the potential to delay accessibility to services due to certain instruments needing to be administered by a psychologist.”
FACT is monitoring efforts to regulate testing in other states. In Maryland, for example, bills were introduced to regulate psychological testing; the bills, however, never made it out of committee. Visit Fair Access Coalition on Testing for more information about FACT.
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December 2007
Volume 12, Issue 17