Governor Approves Sen. Bates' License Portability Bill

SB 679 Will Provide California with More Qualified Professionals
Monday, September 30, 2019

Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has announced that Governor Gavin Newsom has signed her Senate Bill 679 that would streamline the process for licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCCs), marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), and clinical social workers (LCSWs) in other states to become licensed in California.

“This bipartisan new law will help boost California’s mental health workforce and provide needed services to more people,” said Senator Bates, a former social worker. “I am glad that California has made it easier for many new Californians to practice their chosen profession in our communities. Thank you to the California Board of Behavioral Sciences for partnering with me on this successful effort. Its support, along with the support of diverse organizations such as the Steinberg Institute and the R Street Institute, made this new law possible.”

Senator Bates authored SB 679 in partnership with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. The bill provides a pathway for LPCCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs with a qualifying degree who have held an active, unrestricted license for at least two years in another state, to become licensed in California if they complete continuing education coursework specific to the psychotherapy environment in California (approximately 40 hours of California-specific coursework is required) and pass a California law and ethics exam.

Kim Madsen, the Board of Behavioral Sciences’ Executive Officer, said, “This bill is an important step forward in the effort to increase mental health license portability across state lines, and we hope that other states will follow our lead. We applaud Senator Bates for recognizing the importance of this issue and for partnering with us to increase access to mental health services.”

Over the past decade, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences has experienced an increased demand for licenses to become more portable across state lines. This demand is due to two factors: licensees from other states moving here, and an increased technical capability and desire to practice therapy via telehealth with clients in California.

Under SB 679, persons applying for licensure from other states who do not already hold a license or who have held a license for less than two years must continue to meet the Board of Behavioral Sciences’ full education, experience, and examination requirements.

The bill earned the support of organizations including the Steinberg Institute, which was founded by Sacramento Mayor and former state Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to improve mental health. Adrienne Shilton, the Steinberg Institute’s Government Affairs Director, said, “California faces a well-documented shortage of licensed mental health professionals. Our counties – particularly our rural counties – labor to find licensed professionals willing to work in community mental health. SB 679 tackles this problem head on by streamlining the licensing process and improving license portability for mental health professionals from out-of-state.”

The R Street Institute, a free market think tank, also voiced its support for SB 679. Steven Greenhut, Western Region Director for R Street, said, “California's occupational-licensing laws are supposed to protect the public, but have become so encrusted and bureaucratic that they often serve as an unnecessary barrier for skilled people who want to legally work in our state. Senator Bates' SB 679 offers a model for licensing reform, as it streamlines the process for fully qualified mental-health professionals from other states to get a license here. They don't lose their skills by moving to California. Next session, the state should look at doing the same thing for people working in other fields and professions.”