Arkansas Massage Therapists Be(a)ware

The state of Arkansas has more massage legislation going on than you can shake a stick at.  Here’s a quick recap of this legislative bonanza:

AB 145 would dissolve the Arkansas Board of Massage Therapy and transfer duties to the Department of Health, effective Oct. 1, 2015. This has passed both the House and the Senate and been sent to the Governor, and it’s almost a 100% certainty that licensing massage therapists is going to be turned over to the DOH. It’s beyond incredible to me that the current board members apparently did not protest the dissolution of their Board. However, from the mess that they seem to be in, perhaps the Board members felt it’s best to just go along with the change. Unfortunately, in the past few years, the Arkansas Board has apparently been on a downhill slide with their finances.

According to past Board member Susie Byrd, the current board took power in ’09 when Byrd left. At that time, there were 3550 therapists, two people running the board office, and an annual budget of $74,5000. Marilyn Graham was hired as the Executive Director in ’09. As of 2014, 5 years into Graham’s tenure, there are 1990 therapists, four people in the board office, and an annual budget of $248,000. According to Byrd, when she departed from the the Board, the Board had $250,000 in reserves. That $250,000 has been spent, and according to Byrd, Graham has asked for an additional $60,000 twice in the past year. The Dept of Finance and Administration told the board they had to either fire two people or raise fees, and that the legislators would not grant a fee raise. Considering that Arkansas has lost so many licensees, while doubling their staff and moving to bigger, better offices, their spending definitely seems out of control, and it’s no wonder the state feels compelled to do something.READ MORE…

3 comments for “Arkansas Massage Therapists Be(a)ware

  1. April 8, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    Greetings, George, and thanks for your clarification on the bills. Many states  have their Practice Act written under their health care statutes in spite of having a totally independent board without having the DOH running their affairs. It still has not meant carte blanche on filing insurance with the exception of a couple of states. In this case, since this Board has been operating independently for over half a century, it is a shame that financial irresponsibility, and their failure to do anything about that, has brought it to this point. Hopefully they will be able to start with a clean slate. I’m one of those people who would like to see massage accepted as mainstream medical care everywhere and massage therapists in every hospital, but I don’t look for it to happen in my life time.

  2. George Hrenchir
    April 7, 2015 at 1:40 PM

    I apologize for the syntax on the previous letter. It was written with appropriate punctuation and spacing lol.  I look forward to a reply! 😀

  3. George Hrenchir
    April 7, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    Hi Ms. Allen! Thank you for a great commentary on the state of affairs for Arkansas massage therapy. I am a new therapist in the Natural State, and have been following the situation closely. I do have a couple of thoughts that I would like your experienced view on however.First to clarify your points concerning HB1562. It has been replaced completely by SB145, which does not include the 75% regulation (a statistically invalid measure of school competency), nor the exclusion of a single copyrighted modality from government regulation (rumored to be a ploy due to a Board family member’s affiliation with that the organization.)What is the benefit of maintaining an independent Board? Fiscal management should be paramount in regard to a regulatory and industry leading body, and obviously there have been concerns with this. The previous Board was ALSO dissolved because of ethical concerns, which should never be an issue for appointed leaders. I have served for 18 years in the military in many circumstances and have seen the deleterious effects of poor guidance first hand.With the support of the Department of Health, I believe the massage therapy industry will improve it’s poor image within the State, and be able to better serve the Arkansas public through healthcare affiliation, not simply tourist placation. Additionally, with funding being derived from a larger pool, there will be fewer devastating mishaps that require such Governor “bailouts”. The Department of Health in Arkansas currently runs such sister industries as Cosmetology and Aesthetics, as well as such complex healthcare components as emergency medicine and the State Trauma system.I feel the move to be a positive one, in light of the last decade of history in the massage trade in Arkansas, and more in line with the direction massage therapy seems to be moving nation-wide. This is of course with positive appointments to the Technical Advisory committee and a well-defined scope of practice. Massage in Arkansas may finally be able to comfortably bill health-insurance and provide true care to the public, beyond the relaxation and tourist appeal of spa services.In your experience, has a movement in line with the medical industry compromised the integrity or capacity of massage therapy in other States?A humble newbie,George  

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