Friday, January 22, 2010

Minnesota law aimed at increasing mental-health professionals in rural areas

A shortage of mental-health professionals in rural areas is a nationwide problem, but an attempt to help rural Minnesotans to have better access to those services is about to start producing results. When the state legislature attempted to create a new master's-level designation for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in 2007 it failed to officially name holders of the license "mental health professionals," which meant they had to be supervised by another professional during counseling sessions, Tom Robertson of Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Lawmakers fixed the oversight last spring, and this fall those LPCC designations will carry the power to work independently. "Minnesota is one of the last states in the country to allow master's level degree holders to counsel clients independently," Robertson writes. Bemidji State University reports applications for its masters level program are up due to the new legislation.

Even with the new designation, it may be years before the professionals have a measurable impact. Sixty Minnesota counties are federally designated as critical mental-health shortage areas, Robertson reports. "It can be three months in a northern area or a rural area" to see a mental-health professional, Jane Hovland, a psychologist and professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Minnesota Duluth told Robertson. "And maybe that wait is only two weeks in a metropolitan area. And often times when we wait to solve a problem, the problem gets worse." (Read more)

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