60 percent of audited LMTs are failing CE requirements

WA State Board of Massage November Meeting Notes

The day's meeting was interesting, though not exceedingly productive in regard to moving forward with the latest revisions to the new rules.

Welcome new board member Teresa Carson, LMT, who is replacing Jon Argules, LMT, who had resigned for personal reasons.

Report was made from attending the FSMTB (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards) annual meeting - FIVE states are looking at DE-regulating massage! Including Nebraska and Arizona (both currently requiring 1000 hours) as well as our neighbors in Alaska (currently requiring 500 hours). Alaska technically has to vote to renew their massage law in 2018, so I don't know if that counts. But if they do not renew, it will deregulate the industry.

This report was used as a touchstone for NOT increasing the training hour requirements. The Board had a long discussion and voted to continue with the increase in hours. Granted, this discussion to move forward with increasing hours was already decided at the meeting on November 4, 2015 (yes, one-five), but who's keeping track (ahem, yours truly). No decisions were made as to the exact number of hours (leaning toward 600-625) or the content (strongly leaning toward more student clinic hours and more ethics and boundaries training).

During public comment, there was much support for increasing the hours to 625, with WA State Massage Therapy Association asking for 750 hours. WA-AMTA members were also in attendance and support the increased hours. Currently it is estimated that 70-80 percent of WA State massage schools offer more than 625 hours, so this is fairly easily implemented. (The total number of schools in WA is unclear - do you count the number of schools or the number of programs offered at each school? Estimates ranged from 26-64 schools or programs.)

ELAP (Entry Level Analysis Project) has already studied this extensively and FSMTB  would like more states to get on board with 625 so we can start to have some national standardization. The actual ELAP recommendations, which have been quoted extensively in previous public comment, seem not to have made it to this meeting. Hopefully they will be invited in January.

The issue is the Board must justify the public safety purpose for increasing training requirements. ELAP provides that justification. The question was raised as to  what is the total number of complaints received, and how would further training actually curb those complaints. No answer to this question of the number of calls made to complain, vs actionable complaints. Most people will not sign a whistle blower agreement to register the complaint, so the complaint dies in the call center. So the theme of not having the data needed to make decisions remains consistent.

The Board's legal advisor, AAG Luke Eaton, presented on the OPMA - Open Public Meetings Act, RCW 42.30 - this is a transparency law which the Board must receive training on every 3 years. Check, done. Basically the Board can't discuss regulations behind closed doors.

Meghan Lawrence LMT was elected chair of the board for next year and Anthony Sharpe, public member, was elected vice chair for another term.

The Board is going to start a quarterly newsletter for public outreach. They are also considering giving FREE CEUS to massage therapists for attending Board meetings! Stay tuned!

Continuing education audits were discussed. The Department of Health audits 2 percent of LMTs and apparently the majority of those audited FAIL to provide documentation of 24 hours of continuing education in a 2-year period. Sometimes there is confusion on what classes "count" as massage (hmmmm....) but for the most part, therapists are just NOT bothering to do any of their hours and hoping not to get caught. I was surprised to hear that. The Board will definitely discuss this more at the March 2018 meeting.

An FBI agent from Seattle's office, who focuses on human trafficking, will present at the next meeting in January 2018. This is a hot topic for the industry and yours truly is looking forward to more information.

Here is the 2018 schedule of events. Mark your calendars!

January 12 in Tumwater - discuss primary training requirements and license transfers

March 9 in Kent - discuss continuing education requirements and "superficial aids" or tools used during massage

May 11 in Yakima - discuss perineal massage

July 13 in Vancouver - discuss perineal and revisit breast massage

September 14 in Spokane - discuss record keeping

November 2 in Tumwater - finalize any left over rules changes