MTTAC Review & Legislative Update
Today (6/19/23) the Massage Therapy Technical Advisory Committee will meet to hold their second quarterly meeting of 2023 at 9am in Little Rock, Arkansas. Today's blog post is to review their last meeting from March 2023 and discuss the recent new legislative acts in Arkansas that directly impact massage therapy.
Let’s start off with another brief review of MTTAC. The Massage Technical Advisory Committee is the governing agency for the profession of massage therapy in Arkansas. MTTAC replaced the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy (ASBMT) in 2015 following abolishment of the Board and transfer to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). MTTAC consists of seven (7) members (a Chairperson, a Co-Chair, and members- one of which may be a public member and another of which may be a massage therapy school owner). The Committee advises and makes recommendations to the ADH. I will also remind everyone that I am NOT on the MTTAC- I just make a point of attending all their meetings in person.
March 2023 – MTTAC Review:
At March’s meeting, one thing I learned from the jump was that five MTTAC members must be present (physically or virtually) to constitute a quorum.
There was a legal hearing of two owners of a massage business that have had their licenses suspended pending adjudication. There were two arrests of unlicensed “therapists” in their employ. The owners were requesting MTTAC grant them the ability for their spa to continue business during the judicial process. A deal was presented to MTTAC to avoid a full-blown hearing, MTTAC voted to continue their suspension instead of accepting their deal. A special hearing was the next step in that issue, and I have no updates in that regard. Another hearing for a licensed therapist that was accused and convicted last year was presented, the convicted therapist in question has been jailed and MTTAC voted to revoke their license.
By my count there were six Continuing Education providers seeking approval of their courses. Three of which were approved, two were tabled pending further information from the providers, and one was denied approval for scope of practice concerns.
Chairpersons from last year’s two Ad Hoc Committees provided updated comments. MTTAC’s chair and the deciding vote on the issue to request an alternative state exam voiced regret of her vote- this was an extraordinary display of humility and commitment to our profession in Arkansas. I applaud MTTAC’s Chair for publicly voicing her second thoughts. There was also an update regarding the potential proctor, PSI, and what their process would look like pending approval from the Board of Health (remember that the issue of an alternative exam has been effectively killed for now).
Finally, there was a program update from our Section Chief at Arkansas Department of Health that CLIPS launched that day for massage therapists. CLIPS is the system that cosmetologists use to renew their licenses, ADH is hopeful that massage therapists will be able to upload their renewal information and CE certificates to make the administrative burden of renewals easier for everyone. It has not launched for massage therapists to use yet, ADH is “beta testing” and providing feedback before it is ready for us to use. But that was an exciting and welcomed update after years of expecting CLIPS.
June 2023 – Legislative Updates:
That concludes the business from MTTAC’s first 2023 meeting, but this year had a massive number of bills and acts passed directly effecting the profession of massage therapy! Recall from my March update that Acts 45 and 167 were passed and signed into law early this year. Act 45 creates the apprentice and student permits for pre-licensed massage therapists in training. And Act 167 amends the definition and requirements of upgrading to a Master Massage Therapist tiered license.
Since passage Act 167 has concerned some professionals that this new law does not provide an “alternative” route for upgrades but eliminates the original path in favor of the new one. The new pathway for upgrading from LMT to MMT now requires less time practicing massage therapy but more time in college level courses in massage. There is (to my knowledge) only one college in Arkansas that provides a degree in massage therapy studies. If the original upgrade process has been eliminated, this will severely limit advancement of LMT’s careers through upgrade opportunities. Not everyone in the state can afford to attend college at UA Rich Mountain in Mena! Again, none of this has been confirmed- there isn’t need to escalate tempers, just something to keep an eye on and seek clarity on.
Act 565 was an appropriation for the Department of Health, which is the governing agency over the profession of massage therapy in Arkansas. Act 465 amends the law of Barber Examiners (the Barber law uses the word “massage” in relation to scalp massage and shampooing, so any new Barber legislation will pop up under a keyword search for “massage”), Act 886 amends the Uniform Classification and Compensation Act (I regret that I cannot speak intelligently on this law, but to what I can figure- this does not directly affect massage therapists).
And finally, Act 531 To Name A Licensed Massage Therapists As A Mandated Reporter Under The Child Maltreatment Act. This legislation has been largely viewed as a positive step for massage therapists in Arkansas. Many in the state share the feeling that this requirement of our profession has been long overdue and is welcomed. Massage Therapists are often in a unique opportunity to witness signs of abuse that other professions wouldn’t. In my personal practice, I don’t work with minors. But many therapists do and this is, in my opinion, a great law that makes a lot of sense!
While not a legislative update, I want to reiterate that there have been pushes within our local profession to alter examination requirements and lower standards of practice at the state level. The Board of Health remained neutral and in effect killed the request to create an alternative to the MBLEx, but I feel almost certain that this issue is far from dead. The legislature has also demonstrated year after year now that they are meddling in the laws and rules that safeguard our profession in Arkansas. To protect our practices and ensure stability for generations of therapists in the future, it will take all of us working together to fight these changes. I urge everyone interested to get involved with our local Arkansas Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), we need volunteers to do the things Arkansas needs to protect our livelihoods.
Peace and Healing,
Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB