Author: Jeff Yocom, KSCSW Board Member
The KSCSW Board has joined with the National Association of Social Workers to send Governor Matt Bevin a clear message: Incorporating the state's Board of Social Work (BSW) into a single "Unit" Board with several other state professional boards will not serve the citizens of Kentucky. A joint letter to the governor from the Kentucky Chapter of the NASW and the KSCSW explained that this action, which is part of a planned executive order, "will seriously undermine the state's oversight activities with regard to the practice of social work, which in turn, will harm mental health consumers throughout Kentucky."
The planned executive order would leave the BSW as a distinct entity within the consolidated Unit Board, but one executive director hired to oversee all the incorporated boards would have authority over all licensing appeals, regulatory changes and disciplinary appeals. Also, the BSW membership would be reduced from seven to five, and all the incorporated boards would share common professional and administrative staff.
The NASW and KSCSW letter made the case that this arrangement would not ensure the availability, competence and ethical practice of the state's 5400 active licensed social workers at all levels of practice. The reduction in resources and the diffused focus of those that remain will undermine recent BSW progress in important areas, such as licensure processing, improving professional competence, maintaining ethical practice, and addressing consumer complaints. By undermining these areas of progress, the proposed executive order will ultimately harm mental health consumers.
The letter acknowledges that the executive order intends to address the Supreme Court's decision in a recent case involving the N.C. State Board of Dental Examiners, which involved the ability of licensing board members to claim immunity from antitrust liability. At issue was whether a state licensing board with members who are themselves active "market participants" in the profession being overseen can enjoy antitrust liability immunity. The court ruled that state action immunity can apply only so long as the state exercises clearly defined levels of "active supervision" over the board. One condition of that active supervision requires that the person providing supervision by the state cannot be an active market participant and must review all potential antitrust issues addressed by the board.
However, the NASW and KSCSW letter argues that compliance with with the N.C. State Board of Dental Examiners ruling can be achieved without reducing and diluting the current BSW. It proposes that the current board structure remain in place, with a state official from another state office, such as the State Attorney General Office or the Public Protection Cabinet, reviewing any board decisions that may raise antitrust concerns.