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State asked to delay proposed change in counselor rules

Woman sitting on couch talking to counselor
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Hundreds of mental health counselors filled a hearing room in Lansing Friday. Hundreds more rallied outside to oppose a change in state rules that govern their profession. The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is deciding whether to adopt the new rules.

Jill Roland practices in Bad Axe, at the northern tip of Michigan’s Thumb region. She says counselors like her fill a need in rural parts of the state.

“Everyone single one of us provides emergency screening for consumers who are suicidal or homicidal," she said. "We look at hospitalizing them or treating them, and if none of us can practice, there will be a shortage of workers who are able to provide that service in our community.”

The proposed rules would discontinue permission for counselors to diagnose conditions and help develop treatment plans. The rule change would also mean many counselors services would not be covered by health insurance.

Mark Sutton is with the American Legion of Michigan. He says veterans groups are trying to get the health care system to rely less on drugs. He says that’s where counselors can help.

“They’ll seek alternatives before they seek medication to treat like PTSD or depression," he said. "Losing 10,000 counselors in the state of Michigan will put many of them in peril and more suicides."

The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs plans to hold at least one more hearing before deciding whether to adopt the new rules. There’s also a bill before the state Legislature to continue the current system.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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