I spent this past weekend in Los Angeles at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards meeting. It was a great gathering of regulatory board members from all over the US and Puerto Rico. As my own term as a NC Board member ended in June, I was there as an observer, not as a delegate this time.
The main purpose of this meeting is for board representatives to come together to discuss common challenges and hopefully, find solutions. One of the bigger issues this year was lack of funding for boards, and in fact, the Federation has given grants to a half-dozen boards so they can maintain their membership…no small contribution, since there is usually a flat annual fee as well as a per licensee cost to join or maintain membership.
Another hot topic was human trafficking. The National Certification Board started addressing this issue some time ago, to mixed reception. Some people don’t seem to realize that it is indeed a problem, and those that do realize it don’t always approve of the way their states are handling the issue. No one wants to see a big sign about human trafficking outside their massage business, and who can blame them? The primary problem seems to lie with Asian spas. It’s doubly sad for these people, because they are brought to America with the promise of making money, charged a big fee for their transport and “sponsorship” and then virtually enslaved when they arrive.
Of course the issue of portability for licensing was a focus. At one point during the meeting, Executive Director Debra Persinger posed the question “Who thinks portability is a myth?” I was one of three people in the room to raise my hand. While it’s something I would love to see, I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime. The states with higher standards are not going to dumb it down for the rest, in my opinion. The MBLEx may eventually be universally accepted among all the member states, but as long as education requirements vary from state to state, total portability is not going to happen.
The Federation is also working on a Model Practice Act. While I won’t go so far as to say it’s an exercise in futility, I don’t expect any state to throw over the practice act they already have in place in order to adopt the one the FSMTB comes up with. What I do expect to happen is that those states that currently have no regulation may adopt it, and any time a state is revising their current act, they may take bits and pieces from it, if it serves their purpose.
The FSMTB has also announced their intent to get into the business of approving continuing education. So far, that’s still in the planning phase. Nothing real to report on that front.
Elections were also held at the meeting. Current President Kevin Snedden reached the end of his term. Kevin has served the Federation well and has been a Board member for the past six years. I’m sorry to see him go, but equally glad to see Kathy Jensen of Iowa step into the role. I have no doubts that she’ll do a great job. Dennis Beye from Arizona is the new Vice President, and Jaime Huffman of North Carolina is the new Treasurer.
Along with the business, there was time for a little socializing. An opening night reception was well-attended, as was the Saturday night dinner that included a great jazz band. I also took a little trip organized by Chris Sluss…13 of us took a limo ride through LA to Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and we got out and hung out for a couple of hours on Hollywood Blvd. The Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club in Redondo Beach, where the meeting was held, was a beautiful place, nice without being ostentatious and a colony of sea lions was right outside my door. They were so loud the hotel provides everyone with a pair of ear plugs.
Any time people come together for the purpose of solving common problems, it’s a good thing. I’ve always thought the Federation is a good thing. If they ever do pull off total portability or total reciprocity, I’ll be happy to say I was wrong, and congratulate them for doing so.