All About IMpact
I have waited for this day since I started massage therapy school. There is finally model language for legislation to create the Interstate Massage Compact (or IMpact, for short)
What Is IMpact?
The Interstate Massage Compact is a collaborative effort between the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), the Council of State Governments (CSG), and US Department of Defense (DoD) to create a Interstate Compact for Massage Therapists. A Compact is an agreement between two or more states- specifically, IMpact would allow eligible therapists to practice in multiple participating states. Other professions have interstate compacts in place, such as Nursing, Physical Therapy, Psychology, and others (and there are many others in development now).
An easy example to compare it to is a Driver's License. A driver's license is issued by each individual state, but other states have agreed to recognize the license of drivers licensed in remote states. Drivers have to observe and follow state rules of each state they drive in, but are able to enjoy the privileges of the driver's license in multiple states.
IMpact's model language (full text available here https://compacts.csg.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Interstate-Massage-Compact-Model-Legislation.pdf) must be passed as legislation at the individual state level for a therapist's state to be participating. Arkansas has recently secured a commitment from a Representative to introduce IMpact to the current 2023 General Assembly alongside their bill for an Occupational Therapy Compact. IMpact requires a minimum of seven states to pass the legislation to form the Compact. Once formed, eligible therapists in participating states can apply for a multistate license issued by the Compact's administrative Commission. A multistate license would only be valid in states that have joined the Compact by passing the Compact into law, but eliminates the hassle of having to obtain a license in each state you intend to practice.
More detailed information about IMpact can be found here: https://compacts.csg.org/compact-updates/massage-therapy/
Why Does IMpact Matter?
IMpact works as a pathway to multistate licensure, increasing reciprocity among participating states and reducing barriers to license portability. This kind of reciprocity and portability has NEVER existed since the profession began regulation as far back as 1915! This is a unique opportunity for the massage therapy profession and wellness industry. (In my opinion, this is the greatest opportunity since the creation of the national examination, MBLEx) Currently, the path to portability has myriad obstacles- each state having slightly (and sometimes significantly) different requirements to gaining a license in their state. Moving out of your home state and keeping your job as a massage therapist in your new state can be more trouble than its worth in certain circumstances. The US Department of Defense has a particular interest in this issue being resolved for military spouses.
On the other side of the issue, IMpact would relieve states of the administrative burden of issuing temporary licenses and the workflow of incoming therapists from remote states. The Compact also respects and preserves state sovereignty over regulation.
IMpact also benefits clients of massage therapy by providing continuity of service should a client have to relocate among member states.
How Can I Advocate For IMpact?
In Arkansas, we already have secured a commitment from a member of the State House of Representatives to introduce IMpact alongside a similar bill (HB1082 for Occupational Therapists). I am keeping an eye on the Legislature's website for new bills being filed daily. I have also reached out to my district's State Representative and State Senator asking them to either introduce or support IMpact for this year's regular session. The deadline for bills regarding health services is January 25 in Arkansas, so hopefully IMpact will be filed soon.
I have also turned my attention to Arkansas' surrounding states and neighbors (Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) and reached out to their local chapters of AMTA (Presidents and Government Relations) to encourage them to urge their Legislatures to introduce IMpact. It would be great to see a quadrant of Arkansas & our neighbors participating in such a unique advancement in the profession.
If you are in Arkansas and feel so moved to advocate for IMpact, email or call your state legislators- a personal message from a constituent always has more impact than those from organizations.
If you are not in Arkansas, but want your state to join the Compact- do some research and find a sympathetic legislator in your state that might support the Compact. Encourage them with a message of what it would mean to you for your state to participate in IMpact.
Peace And Healing,
Kirby Clark, MMT , BCTMB