HB 250: Streamlined Social Worker Licensing
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Libertas Institute supports this bill
Occupational licensing laws play a significant role in determining who is able to enter certain professions, and in the case of mental and behavioral health providers, these laws can greatly impact the availability of professionals in communities.
Social workers, in particular, are a professional group that is projected to face shortages in the future.
These shortages can be exacerbated by the strict requirements set by occupational licensing laws, which include large education requirements, experiential requirements, and examination requirements. For social workers, the examination requirements are particularly notable, as many states, including Utah, require various types of social workers to pass a licensing examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) in order to become fully licensed professionals.
These exams are intended to gauge a social worker’s ability to practice ethically and safely. Additionally, they are currently mandatory for gaining licensure in nearly every US state at various levels of licensure. However, the necessity and value of these exams have been challenged.
Recent pass-rate data from the ASWB has revealed a significant disparity in passing rates between White test-takers and those of other racial and ethnic groups.
This data suggests that the exams administered by the ASWB may be biased and, as a result, harm hopeful Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Indigenous social workers. Instead of serving their intended purpose, these exams appear to inadvertently promote economic protectionism and insulate those already licensed from the potential competition of newly licensed professionals.
House Bill 250, sponsored by Representative Marsha Judkins, could provide a solution to the current issue with social worker licensing exams. This legislation removes examination requirements for licensure as a certified social worker or social service worker. It also authorizes, if chosen, the re-creation of a pathway to licensure that includes examination but could provide an opportunity to alter the means of examination.
Additionally, this bill also lessens the impact of potentially damaging examination requirements by allowing for a provisional clinical social worker license to be issued to an applicant who:
- has applied for licensure as a clinical social worker
- speaks English as a second language
- has not obtained a passing score on the examination
- and otherwise meets all the requirements for licensure as a clinical social worker.
Potentially biased examinations and shortages in such a vital field are important issues and it is important that occupational licensing is made an equitable and fair process to ensure that communities have the necessary workforce to combat poor mental health outcomes. House Bill 250 works to ensure those outcomes.