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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

MTTAC Review & Legislative Update

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Next Monday (9/18/23) the Massage Therapy Technical Advisory Committee will hold their third quarterly meeting of 2023 at 9am in Little Rock, Arkansas. Today's blog post is to review their last meeting from June 2023 and discuss the recent new legislative acts in Arkansas that directly impact massage therapy.

Please remember that the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy (established in 1951) was abolished in 2015. The powers and duties of the Board were transferred to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Massage Therapy Technical Advisory Committee took the place of the Board. This has been referred to as "largely an administrative change", but the fact of the matter is MTTAC does not have the same powers and authority that the Board once enjoyed. Many Arkansas therapist still have the bad habit of referring to our governing authority as "The Board" instead of "MTTAC" or "The Committee". It is also important to recognize the "hierarchy of authority" or "chain of command"; MTTAC makes recommendations and advises ADH, ADH reports and makes requests of the Arkansas Board of Health (BOH).

June 2023 - MTTAC Review:

The first order of business was approval of minutes from the March meeting- this did not go as smoothly as usual. There were three amendments made to the minutes, largely technical phrasing issues. The amendment motion(s) were passed, but this has delayed the public availability of March's minutes according to the Massage Section Chief.

There were three new applicants for Continuing Education (CE) approval; the first course was tabled, the second provider's 6 CE courses were tabled, and the final applicant was approved. There were two old CE applications reviewed; the first was ultimately denied for being out of scope of practice and the second was tabled for missing material.

ADH Legal provided a legal update and clarified that the BOH made no motion on the request MTTAC made to develop a "state licensing exam". They also acknowledged the recent legislative acts that were passed this year; namely Acts 45, 167, and 531 (which I've written about before, but are the Apprentice/Student Licenses, alternative pathway to MMT upgrade, and Mandated Reporter bills/acts respectfully). Clarity that the Mandated Reporting aspect only applies for minors (18 and under) {Not the adult elderly as I had previously thought} was also provided. I got further information from an MTTAC member after adjournment stating that as Mandated Reporters (which Massage Therapists now are), if there is any sexual misconduct committed by a massage therapist it will be considered Sexual Assault in the 3rd Degree- regardless of the victim's age.

The Massage Therapy Section Chief provided a program update about the CLIPS program that has been in the works for what seems like forever now. We were told that CLIPS was live but not public yet- the Department was running internal tests to screen out glitches or flaws in the system. (Hold on, I'm getting there...) They also announced a hopeful date of going live and public with CLIPS on August 1, 2023 to begin issuing Student/Apprentice Licenses (since Act 45 would go into effect on Aug 1). I know there's an elephant in the room, I promise I'm getting to it!

To conclude there was a potion of time open for public comment. I made my first public comment to "re-introduce" the Arkansas Chapter of AMTA, the states oldest member led association- and our best bet for substantial change in the future! I urge everyone interested in making the change and guiding our profession's future to get involved with AMTA Arkansas's Chapter. We can always use more volunteers- there is a size and role perfect for you at AMTA.

The Elephant In The Room: CLIPS

Because the Arkansas General Assembly isn't in legislative session right now, there are no Legislative updates to make. The newest Massage Therapy Law for 2023 is now available on ADH website, Rules based off the newest law will be promulgated by the Board of Health next year.

But let's get to the elephant in the room, the CLIPS launch snafu. As many Arkansas therapists were made aware via the many facebook groups, when some therapists went through their typical renewal process, they were shocked and (rightfully) outraged to discover they had been issued a new license number. WHAT A LOVELY SUPRISE... NOT!!! The license number hold sentimental value as the lower the number, the longer the therapist has held an Arkansas Massage License. I know that I hold my license number as a sense of pride (even though I'm a newer therapist- license 8097), I would be furious if I were issued a new number with no path of recourse. Furthermore, our license numbers have to be recorded with our professional associations (AMTA, ABMP, NCBTMB) and have to be displayed on Continuing Education certificates of completion. This is all to say without mentioning that many therapists choose to have their license number on their advertisements and business cards. (Some states require license numbers on such material!)

As you can imagine, this administrative faux pas ruffled many feathers and sparked much passionate discussion. To many this felt like one more dignity stripped from our profession after being transferred to a state-ran agency. And understandably so! We are left in a sense of hopelessness after having our Board abolished and independence taken away. I still urge you to lean toward participation instead of resigning to hopelessness and doing nothing. GET INVOLVED! Sometimes I want to scream, "if this is all the fight massage therapists in Arkansas have left after having everything stripped from us, then we deserve to have the state do whatever it wants to us." MTTAC meetings should be packed wall-to-wall with standing room only- EVERYONE should be attending these proceedings. I get discouraged when everyone wants to complain but nobody wants to get involved and work for change. But then I remember the lessons of history- people can do hard things! Our massage ancestors had know how but they too also made mistakes. We can learn from both!

It has since come out from another MTTAC member that ADH was not aware of the burdens or concerns new license numbers would create and they did not anticipate the outrage. There has been no specifics released about what will be done to remedy this situation, but that keeping our original numbers CAN be done but that it will delay CLIPS from going live for the public. This is all but assured to be addressed during next weeks' meeting.

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB

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