Michigan Achieves Licensure for SLPs After 40 Years, MSHA’s Persistence Pays Off With Legislative Victory ASHA News
ASHA News  |   February 01, 2009
Michigan Achieves Licensure for SLPs
Author Notes
  • Julie Pratt, MA, CCC-SLP, government relations chair for MSHA, can be reached at jypratt@yahoo.com.
    Julie Pratt, MA, CCC-SLP, government relations chair for MSHA, can be reached at jypratt@yahoo.com.×
  • Janet Deppe, MS, CCC-SLP, ASHA director of state advocacy, can be reached at jdeppe@asha.org.
    Janet Deppe, MS, CCC-SLP, ASHA director of state advocacy, can be reached at jdeppe@asha.org.×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   February 01, 2009
Michigan Achieves Licensure for SLPs
The ASHA Leader, February 2009, Vol. 14, 1-30. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.14022009.1
The ASHA Leader, February 2009, Vol. 14, 1-30. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.14022009.1
Michigan became the 48th state to regulate speech-language pathology after Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed State Senate Bill 493 on Jan. 13, capping a two-year campaign by the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA). The licensure victory was the result of many years of effort—MSHA first sought state licensure 40 years ago.
“An old saying in grassroots advocacy was certainly consistent in Michigan—‘people will respond if you ask them personally,’” said Tim Weise (Garden City Hospital, Garden City, Mich.). “It takes a long time to educate folks. You have to be ready to talk to both sides in this issue.” He noted that ASHA has always supported MSHA as members have pursued licensure over four decades.
Michigan’s law is a comprehensive bill that requires SLPs to maintain a license to practice in any setting. The new law places the state in elite company as one of only 14 states to require comprehensive licensure for SLPs. Other key provisions in Michigan’s law include licensure by endorsement for applicants from other states, provisional licenses for clinical fellows, and mandatory continuing education for licensure renewal.
Michigan’s passage of a licensure law leaves only two states—South Dakota and Colorado—that do not regulate the profession.
Steps to Success
It was the first experience in politics for Maureen Staskowski, MSHA president. “People should not be intimidated,” she said. “Some of what I learned made me realize how easy it is to provide opinions to legislators—they truly want to learn what issues are involved.”
Staskowski said her advice to others is: “Get involved! And get your colleagues involved! Find out if your school system or hospital has a lobbyist. Introduce yourself. Introduce them to your state association lobbyist. None of these things take as much time as one might fear—and they aren’t as hard as one might think, either.”
ASHA assisted MSHA in drafting language, providing resources and examples from comparable states, and suggesting ways to increase member involvement.
MSHA hired a new lobbyist, Stephanie Johnson, in 2007. She worked with the advocates and a small but determined government relations committee to achieve licensure. The group devised a step-by-step plan, listing what needed to be accomplished to move the bill through the legislative process before January 2009.
Step 1: Meet with organizations that oppose the bill.
MSHA reached out to stakeholders and potential adversaries to ensure their concerns were addressed. The MSHA group worked directly with counterparts from the state medical society and the state chapter of the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgeons to understand the needs of all stakeholders, strategize solutions to barriers, and produce acceptable legislative language. By involving stakeholders early in the process, the group was able to craft language that addressed stakeholder concerns and also maintained high standards for the profession. As a result of these meetings, MSHA was able to include language in the bill covering speech-language pathology services for swallowing disorders including diagnostic testing using endoscopic videostroboscopy and therapeutic intervention for swallowing disorders.
Although staff at the Michigan Department of Education wanted to exempt SLPs working in education settings from licensure, MSHA convinced them that a universal license offered more protection for consumers, enhanced the portability for SLPs, and would help attract and retain quality providers in school settings. A generous grandfather provision, adopted by both parties, allowed the bill to move forward.
At all meetings the group discussed each area, word, or idea of concern. Although time-consuming, the discussions allowed the group to arrive at consensus on every issue; as a result they supported the bill in their testimony before the state House and Senate.
Step 2: Ensure that state representatives and senators know the bill’s importance.
MSHA started a program, “Adopt a Legislator,” using an e-mail discussion list to match MSHA members to legislators and enlisting members to assist with the grassroots mission. During key times in the legislative process, the group activated this list to contact legislators. The participating members received sample letters and contact numbers to make the process easier and less time-intensive. This process allowed MSHA to obtain necessary support before meeting face-to-face with committee members at hearings.
Step 3: Hold an annual day at the state capital.
For the past two years, MSHA focused its Better Hearing and Speech Month celebration in May on educating legislators about audiology and speech-language pathology and the need for speech-language pathology licensure. Members were able to speak with legislators and to help them understand MSHA’s mission to protect individuals in Michigan who have communication disorders.
All of the steps led to a big success for speech-language pathology in the state of Michigan. At the same time, the new licensure law will provide protection for state residents with communication disorders.
Johnson has worked with other groups for licensure and said MSHA’s experience was similar. “We’re not a pro-regulation state, so you really have to go out and prove the worth of licensure,” she said, noting that nothing in the legislative process happens on its own.
“Everything is a team effort. You have to do your homework in advance and talk with the special-interest groups that will be affected,” Johnson said. “Without a good foundation, you set yourself up for failure. MSHA had the support from their members to make the difference.”
Success At Last

The successful passage of Michigan’s license bill is attributed to key people: Julie Pratt, Maureen Staskowski, Sandra Glista, Tim Weise, Elaine Ledwon-Robinson, Mike Rolnick, and Stephanie Johnson, MSHA’s new lobbyist. Pratt and Staskowski were fairly new to the effort. Glista did outstanding work over the last several years. Weise worked on the effort for many years, as did others like Sue Fleming, who is no longer on the MSHA board. Rolnick and Ledwon-Robinson faithfully appeared for testimony in Lansing. The background work of these professionals over many years finally came to fruition.

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February 2009
Volume 14, Issue 2