Speech-Language Pathologist Licensing and Health Visiting Policies Bills Heard in House Health Policy Committee – State of Reform

Bills regarding speech therapist licensing and health care visits were heard at a recent meeting of the Michigan House Health Policy Committee.

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Senate Bill 811, sponsored by Sen. Curtis VanderWall (R – Ludington), seeks to help more speech therapists become licensed in the state. Postgraduate speech and language therapists are currently required to complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical work to obtain their full license and practice independently. These postgraduates must hold a provisional license to complete this clinical experience.

The current statute has a 12-month validity period for this temporary license, and the bill would extend that period to 24 months, as well as allow for renewal.

“With everything we’ve been through over the last few years, from distance learning, unplanned extended medical situations and reductions in workplace availability, it’s become quite difficult for these postgraduates to be able to get the hours they need in these 12 months ” a VanderWall spokesman said at the meeting. “This bill will include the flexibility of our postgraduates and their need to complete their clinical hours here in Michigan so they can stay here in Michigan.”

Kelly Pierce, a speech pathologist and vice president of advocacy at the Michigan Speech-Hearing Association, testified in support of the bill. She said extending the amount of time doctoral students must complete their 1,000 hours of supervised clinical work will encourage them to stay and practice in Michigan.

“The 12-month non-renewable license is unsustainable for many of these graduates… As we have already mentioned today, there is a significant workforce shortage in all areas of health care, including education and speech pathology,” she said. “In 2021, we surveyed current graduates at universities across the state, asking them what their plans are when they graduate. 64% had plans to stay in Michigan, 26% were undecided and only 10% planned to move. So our graduates want to stay here and want to join the workforce.”

Another bill discussed at the committee meeting aims to ensure that personal medical representatives can visit patients with cognitive disabilities in health care facilities. SB 450, sponsored by Sen. Jim Stamas (R–Midland), would prohibit an emergency order issued during an outbreak from barring a patient or resident from certain health care facilities for more than 30 days. The bill would also allow a personal medical representative to be admitted to a health care facility with a patient or resident who has a cognitive impairment while they make health care decisions if an emergency medical order has lasted more than 30 days.

The bill states that MDHHS, hospitals and other health care facilities can establish guidelines and procedures for these visits, as well as limit the number of patient representatives at one time.

“Over the past 2 1/2 years, we’ve had situations across the state with family members in hospitals, nursing homes and rehab centers undergoing non-COVID and COVID-related procedures with limited personal access for their family members or their representatives,” a spokesman for Senator Stamas said at the meeting. “We’ve all experienced things in the last 2.5 years that we never expected before. This legislation will give families and loved ones peace of mind knowing they have this support system when and if needed.”

Richie Farran, vice president of government services at the Michigan Health Association, testified in support of the bill.

“Long-term care facilities have experienced the most difficult years the profession has ever experienced,” he said. “The pandemic has been a unique challenge for long-term care residents and their families. We thank Senator Stamas for his commitment to ensuring the well-being of residents. From our perspective, I think it is important to note that the bill allows for facilities to implement protocols such as testing [and] screening. We appreciate the approach of balancing visits and resident safety.”

As this was an initial hearing, no votes were taken on any of the bills.

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