Update on MSHA activity in the 2021 Legislature
MSHA is working directly on 2 bills this year in the Legislature:
1) HB 210: SLPA Bill - (Link to bill text here) If enacted, this legislation would create SLPA as a position that has their own licensure, much as OTs and PTs have in their Montana licensure. As amended, SLPAs would be able to work in all settings, including telepractice, under the supervision of a fully-licensed SLP. The bill follows the new ASHA pathways for licensure for nationally-certified SLPAs. The University of Montana School Speech, Language, Hearing and Occupational Sciences has worked closely with ASHA certification guidelines to develop a program for students to follow one of the pathways to become a certified SLPA. This is the second session that MSHA has carried this bill to the legislature, and we hope it can be enacted this session. How can you help?
ADVOCACY for HB 210:
This bill has passed out of committee and has a hearing on the House floor Monday, February 8th. To watch, go to leg.mt.gov, select “watch and listen,” and then select "House Floor" at 1 pm. To contact your Representative, please use this legislator lookup link. Please urge your Representative to support this bill. Possible talking points are as follow:
Montana has a shortage of fully-licensed SLPs and this bill could help the residents of our state have more access to the services they need, and ensure that services will be from a qualified provider who has met academic standards, completed a supervised clinical practicum, and has passed an exam approved by the Montana Board of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.
Under the supervision of a licensed audiologist or speech-language pathologist, licensed assistants could provide services in a wide variety of settings, including telepractice, to help fill voids where they exist in our state. Shortages of SLP/Audiology services occur in both rural and more urban settings across Montana.
Currently, Montana law provides for registration of SLP and Audiology Aides/Assistants who must be “attached” to a fully-licensed SLP or Audiologist, instead of requiring them to obtain their own licensure, as Occupational Therapy Assistants and Physical Therapy Assistants must do in Montana.
2) HB 291: AN ACT REQUIRING COVERAGE OF AMPLIFICATION DEVICES AND RELATED SERVICES FOR CHILDREN WITH HEARING LOSS. (Link to bill text here). If enacted, this legislation would require insurance coverage sold in the group or individual market in Montana to provide coverage for diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss for a covered child 18 years of age or younger. As we know, this is so important for Montana kids and families, as both durable equipment for hearing loss and rehabilitation services can be expensive if not covered by insurance. This summer, the group Let Montana Hear (link on FB here!) spent many hours organizing and collecting data to be prepared for the first hearing. Information for that hearing is below.
ADVOCACY for HB 291:
The committee hearing scheduled for Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 at 3 pm in the Human Services committee. To listen, go to https://leg.mt.gov/, then go to "Watch & Listen" across the top banner. Scroll down to "House Human Services" and click Listen.
Let Montana Hear and MSHA are looking for individuals who wish to testify the the Human Services Committee, or submit comment to the committee. Anyone wishing to do so must use this link no later than Friday, Feb. 12 at 12:00 https://leg.mt.gov/session/have-your-say/ .
People can also email directly to the members of the Human Services Committee. Let Montana Hear has provided some excellent information, sample letters, and a list of committee members in the attachments provided below. Please forward this message on to anyone who you think would be interested in helping out.