Michigan stakeholders divided over effort to change title of certain mental health professionals

A seemingly small change of title for certain mental health professionals could have a myriad of consequences, according to experts that testified in support of Senate Bill 1124 at a recent Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee meeting.

 

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The bill would amend the Public Health Code to modify references to a limited licensed counselor (LLC) to instead refer to a limited licensed professional counselor (LLPC). 

Sen. Douglas Wozniak (R-Shelby Township), the bill’s sponsor, said enshrining this title in state law will benefit these professionals and the services they provide. 

“The industry and state regulators have been referring to these individuals as limited licensed professional counselors for a number of years, but our state law does not reflect that,” he said. “I believe this small but necessary change will help those in the profession to continue to provide their essential services in our state.”

Jessica Bonneville, Capital Regional Ambassador for the Michigan Mental Health Counselors Association (MMHCA), said in her testimony in support of the bill that the effort began because the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) is in the process of formally changing the title of Michigan limited licensed professional counselors to limited licensed counselors due to a law passed in 2019 that defined limited licensees as limited licensed counselors. 

“For the past 34 years, limited licensees have used the recognized professional term [LLPC], and there was no problem or issue, and LARA has also always used this term as well,” Bonneville said. “With it not being indicated as a problem or issue requiring change when the law was recently being updated with 34 years of precedent, it is a bit difficult to understand why LARA is making this change now after so many years.”

Bonneville said LARA’s planned change would have very serious negative impacts on the LLPCs of Michigan. 

She said the term LLC is already a protected term in Michigan statute used to refer to limited liability companies, which she said creates confusion for the public, in turn creating barriers to seeking mental health services. 

“We are concerned that there could be penalties for the use of this term if one is not a limited liability company,” she said. “The term LLC is not a recognized mental health term, the public knows the term LLC as limited liability company, and it is not a recognized mental health designation and LLPCs would lose their identity as mental health professionals.”

She added that other states do not use or recognize LLC as a valid mental health title, creating difficulties for these professionals if they are seeking licensure in other states.

Insurance companies and credentialing bodies also do not recognize LLC as a valid mental health title, according to Bonneville, which creates credentialing and reimbursement issues for these professionals. 

The bill was referred to the Senate Floor on Oct. 11th and has yet to be heard.