Counselors rally in Detroit for right to diagnose patients

Mental health professionals are asking for the state department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to reconsider a plan that would revoke their privileges to diagnose and conditions for their patients.

Hundreds of counselors gathered at the state capital on Friday. There were so many people there, some couldn't even get inside to get their voices heard at a hearing before state lawmakers. They said the proposed changes could cost them their jobs, patients, and much more.

"I can only imagine how my clients will feel or what they might do," said one counselor.

"Many would struggle if they had to start with someone new," another counselor said. "The concept is terrifying."

It's all related to changes LARA is set to make that would limit what licensed professional counselors can do for their patients. The new licensing would not allow them to diagnose conditions or get reimbursed by insurance companies. 

It's estimated 10,000 counselors and anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 clients could be impacted.

"Today we have a crisis - we already have a shortage - we have waitlists - there are people who feel like they can't find a provider, they have these long waits before they can get help - imagine if all of these people are not in their offices,” said another counselor.

The fear is being felt across the state and at Wayne State University Friday where many professors and their students studying to become Licensed Professional Counselors are rallying to save their degrees and their jobs. They are hopeful a House bill would stop LARA's planned actions.

"House bill 4325 will etch in stone the vital work that (Licensed Professional Counselors) do in Michigan - right now LARA has some foolish proposals that would decimate a profession," said state representative Isaac Robinson (D-Hamtramck).

Robinson is one of many lawmakers supporting the counselors who work in schools, hospitals, and just about anywhere mental health services are needed.

"This attack on this profession will affect non-profits, it will affect our local economy, it will affect universities," Robinson said.

For two weeks, FOX 2 has asked LARA why they're making this change. They responded Friday evening with the following statement: 

“The current rules are very outdated and require updates governing the counseling profession. Counselors will still be able to practice their profession under the new rules. The current and new rules do not allow licensees to diagnose and use psychotherapy techniques because the statute does not allow this practice under the profession's scope. The pending rules seek to move the existing language from one section to the proper section under the training and education portion of the rules. If the rules are adopted the scope of practice would not change because the current law does not give LARA authority to expand or change the scope of practice of this profession by rule.” 

"We're going to make sure Governor Whitmer understands this issue - because we're going to pass this bill through the House - we have bi-partisan support," Robinson said.

House Bill 4325 would preserve the services LPCs can offer, but it's not clear that will pass before LARA's new rules - take effect.