Governor Signs Senator Patricia Bates' Measure to Streamline Oversight of Mental Health Professionals

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has announced that Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 531 into law, a measure that streamlines and improves the enforcement process at the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.

“With the number of therapists and social workers continuing to grow, it’s important that California’s laws are updated to safeguard patient safety and improve government efficiency,” said Bates, a former social worker. “SB 531 gives the California Board of Behavioral Sciences the tools it needs to perform its oversight role with existing resources.”

SB 531 streamlines the process by which the Board of Behavioral Sciences may deny a petition without a hearing and delineates the criteria to do so. Also, SB 531 clarifies that the Board has jurisdiction to take disciplinary action even if the status of a license or registration changes or expires.

The Board currently licenses four types of mental health professionals: licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), licensed educational psychologists (LEPs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), and licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCCs). The number of professionals that the Board oversees has steadily increased over the past several years. At the same time, the Board’s Enforcement Unit is receiving an increasing number of requests to petition for early termination of probation or modification of penalty.

However, for some of these cases, the petitioner is not in compliance with his or her probation terms. Processing these requests and bringing them to a hearing takes up the valuable time and resources of staff, attorneys and Board members, even though the petitioner’s request will ultimately be denied due to noncompliance.

SB 531 outlines the criteria under which the Board may deny a petition without a hearing. This includes circumstances where the petitioner is not in compliance with his or her probation, or has had a subsequent arrest while on probation. These changes will only affect a small number of licenses and registrants.

The Senate and Assembly previously approved SB 531 on unanimous votes.