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We said consolidate four behavioral health boards, Texas sunset panel reiterates to legislature

Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/Wokandapix

A March report by the Texas Sunset Commission doubled down on recommendations it made two years ago that the legislature failed to follow. Slamming the state's regulation of psychologists, social workers, professional counselors, and marriage and family therapists, the panel called for consolidation of the four boards now responsible for the licensing and discipline of the fields into one Behavioral Health Executive Council to streamline regulation and to catch up on complaint backlogs.

Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/Wokandapix

The sunset panel echoed its own 2016 review in stressing that the structure of the state’s behavioral health licensing agencies is “antiquated and inefficient.” “Regulating these professions through four separate, independent boards fails to meet the needs of consumers, licensees, and the state,” the review said, pointing to “massive backlogs and years-long delays in processing license applications and complaint cases.

Only the psychology board was labeled “well-functioning” by the sunset reviewers, who said it should be used as a foundation for a consolidated agency that would bring administrative economies of scale as well as sharing regulatory efforts in behavioral health.

Other board shortcomings cited by the sunset reviewers:

  • Outdated modes for criminal background checks and no proactive effort to ensure out-of-state applicants are safe to practice in Texas. The boards should be required to conduct fingerprint-based background checks, the review said.
  • An oral exam in psychology, a measure that few boards now use. Although the oral exam has been discontinued as a licensing requirement, the psychology board’s authority to administer an oral exam should be removed, the panel said.
  • Requiring a year-long post-doctoral supervised work experience, described as an unnecessary hurtle to licensure and a contributor to mental health care provider shortages in Texas.

The fiscal impact of the consolidation plan upon the state’s budget would be large in the first year, requiring an $857,000 expenditure for six months of an executive director’s time plus database transfers, information technology, startup costs, and equipment. But in following years, the sunset panel estimates, the net fiscal impact would be nil compared with 2015 outlays—because the boards are authorized to recover any costs or loss of revenue through adjustments in their regulatory fees.