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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

MTTAC Review & Legislative Update

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Next Monday, (12/18/23) , the Massage Therapy Technical Advisory Committee will meet to hold their fourth and final quarterly meeting of 2023 at 9am in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Today's blog post is to review their last meeting from September 2023 and discuss the recent new legislative acts in Arkansas that directly impact massage therapy.

This MTTAC Meeting was a whopper! It lasted FIVE (5) hours, from 9am to 2:15pm! There were a total of three (3) administrative hearings conducted.

September 2023 - MTTAC Review:

This time the approval of minutes went off without a hitch!

A legal update from the Arkansas Department of Health's Attorney was provided. Rules to further promulgate the 2023 Massage Therapy Law have been drafted and a special (virtual only) meeting of MTTAC was called in early October for MTTAC to discuss and approve. From the Special Rules Meeting, there wasn't much to report- there was some discussion about the length of time that complaints can be made about a licensee and the minimum number of CE hours required to practice electro-stimulation therapy and ultrasound therapy. No definitive answers were reached in the special meeting, but the Rules as currently drafted were approved by MTTAC. There was no public comment at that time, there will be a public comment opportunity on these new rules at a later date.

By my count there were a series of old business Continuing Education course approvals from three provider applicants and one new applicant that was not received by the department (the new applicant was approved at the special rules meeting). All courses were approved.

Then began the Administrative Hearings.

The first one was a continuation of the investigation of two workers that were working for a licensed establishment under the two LMT owners. The two workers were charged with sex work crimes; one charge was later dropped and the other pleaded nolo contendre. You'll remember that at a previous MTTAC meeting, they rejected a consent agreement with the LMT owners against ADH's recommendation. At this meeting, ADH recommended they accept the consent agreement with an 18 month probation on the owner's licenses (which would make a total of 2 years of disciplinary action) and ADH making regular inspections and audits of employee records.

The next hearing was a strange case; this one (like the third and last) was complaint driven. In the simplest explanation, a couple scheduled tandem (or couple) massages from a mobile therapist. When the therapist got there and after the massage services were rendered, the client claimed that the therapist they booked with allowed her underage daughter to provide the massage for one of the sessions. In the end, the mobile licensed therapist was unable to provide any documentation (like SOAP notes or charting) of the services and could not prove who the other therapist was working with her on that day. MTTAC voted to a probation period of twelve months with the Department doing regular inspections for the mobile therapist and audits of client records. This is just another example of how important documenting client charts and keeping records of your business can be! After this hearing, MTTAC broke for lunch that was provided for them by the Department of Health.

The final admin hearing was also complaint driven with two clients claiming a therapist had been touching them inappropriately through the course of their work with this particular therapist. One of the complainants had won a social media giveaway and began working with the therapist from that giveaway, over the series of services- the therapist began working on breast tissue without the required CE hours and physician's documentation. The other complainant was a former co-worker with the therapist who claimed that subsequent sessions with this therapist became more and more inappropriate over time. ADH recommended MTTAC revoke the license of this therapist, which they ultimately did. From my recollection, the therapist did not deny any of the inappropriate actions but claimed that 1) he was unaware of the extra requirements for working on breast tissue and 2) he did not feel as those these two complainants were "clients" based on a "personal relationship" he felt existed. Do Not Misunderstand Me: this therapist was in the wrong and broke the laws and rules in Arkansas for massage therapy. But he also pointed out that there is no definition in our statutes that clearly defines what a "client" is- this has lead me to think that a standard definition of what a client is and when that therapeutic relationship begins and ends should be explicit in our laws and rules.

Finally, there was a brief program update from our section chief about the CLIPS launch and license number snafu. The re-launch of CLIPS will be delayed again, but we were reassured that we can retain our old license number. A question about how ADH will handle upgrade license numbers will be addressed came up, the official response from ADH was "no promises, we will deal with that as it happens." Which is no plan at all in actuality. But this is exactly what Arkansas Massage Therapists have come to expect from a state run agency like ADH.

In Public Comments, I stood to make a quick reminder about AMTA Arkansas. A question was brought up again about the "alternative state licensing exam", I stood up again to caution MTTAC not to peruse frivolous items that have already been rejected by the Board of Health. A question about the repeatedly absent public member of MTTAC was raised- ADH reminded us that by the time the BOH could appoint a replacement that terms would be expiring soon (again, not a plan but they told us they would look into it). A mention about the term "direct supervision" in our rules was made and how it is all but impossible to provide direct supervision as it is written. And a question about how massage therapists can be made aware of or trained in mandated reporting was brought up. ADH's opinion is that training is the obligation of the individual licensee but they would reach out to their contacts in DHS (Department of Human Services) to get more resources. (I'll say that MTTAC has requested ADH send out memos to LMTs in Arkansas several times about updated rules, laws, etc... and it never happens)

Legislative Update:

2024 is a fiscal legislative session for Arkansas. The upcoming year SHOULD be uneventful in terms of legislation regarding massage therapy. You never know how much the General Assembly will stick to exclusive fiscal issues however, so we should all keep our ears to the ground and our eyes open for 2024.

I am planning a 2024 Arkansas Massage Legislative Awareness Day at the state capitol. The tentative date is February 27, 2024. More details will be coming soon.

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB

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