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Senate approves Senator Bates’ license portability bill

The California State Senate approved Senate Bill 679 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) 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.

“I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues approved my legislation to help boost the mental health workforce without sacrificing quality,” said Sen. Bates. “There is no reason why the state should continue to make it difficult for new Californians to practice their chosen profession in our communities.”

Over the past decade, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (Board) 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.

SB 679 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.

Individuals 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’s full education, experience, and examination requirements.

SB 679 strikes a balance of ensuring the ability to practice therapy safely in California’s diverse environment and honoring the experience licensees have as long-time practitioners in other states. If SB 679 becomes law and shows positive results, the Board intends to promote the idea of license portability to its counterpart state licensing agencies, with the goal of it becoming a model to promote increased access to mental health services and increased licensure opportunities nationwide.

SB 679 will head next to the Assembly for its consideration.

In addition to SB 679, the Senate Health Committee approved Sen. Bates’ SB 604 on April 3rd, which would require the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to establish “centers of excellence” to provide counties with technical assistance in implementing Proposition 63 (2004). Prop. 63 provides funds to counties to expand services and develop programs and integrated service plans for Californians with mental illnesses.

This article was released by the Office of Senator Patricia Bates.