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Health News Florida

Florida faces a shortage of mental health counselors. Joining a licensing compact could help

Sen Ana Maria Rodriguez.png
The Florida Channel
State Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, speaks to the Senate Health Policy Committee on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. She has proposed a measure that would allow Florida to join the Professional Counselors Licensure Compact.

Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez is pushing a bill she says would make it easier for counselors to move to Florida or remotely work with clients in the state.

Florida is facing a shortage of mental health counselors. To help, state Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, is pushing a bill she says would make it easier for counselors to move to Florida or remotely work with clients in the state.

Under her measure, Florida would join the Professional Counselors Licensure Compact. The agreement would allow counselors in participating states to apply to have their qualifications extended to another participating state.

The bill (SB 358) would also provide for the development of the data system, reporting procedures and the exchange of specified information between member states, as well as assurance that compact members adhere to the laws of their remote states.

“It will ease the ability for professionals from other states to come in,” Rodriguez said.

To be enacted, 10 states must join the compact. So far, only Georgia and Maryland are members.

The proposal was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Senate Health Policy Committee. It is next scheduled to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Karla Sapp, with the Florida Counseling Association, testified in favor of the bill. Sapp, a licensed mental health counselor is Florida and Georgia, told the committee the provider shortage comes as the need is growing, “highlighted by the opioid epidemic, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and rural health care disparities.”

WFSU’s Regan McCarthy contributed to this report.