Tag Archives: CAMTC

CAMTC: Under the Gun, ABMP Says “Declare Victory and Move On”

I’ve spent the past day or so reviewing the CAMTC Sunset Review Report…at over 200 pages, it’s a narrative of the who, what, where, when, and why of the organization, which is now in its fifth year.

California operates differently from the other regulated states. The CAMTC is not officially a state regulatory board. It is a non-profit organization, offering voluntary certification. It is just my opinion that this is a big improvement over the previous state of affairs there, when there was nothing at all, other than each municipality regulating as they chose, which more often that not meant that legitimate massage therapists were classified along with sex workers and treated the same way. I’ve heard horror stories from therapists who have in the past been made to take a test for STDs, along with paying money to each individual town in which one was practicing. Someone doing outcalls may have been looking at a separate license and another financial burden in many different places. The CAMTC aimed to put a stop to this by getting it into the statutes that if you had the CAMTC certification, you were allowed to skip all the local hoops. It was a very hard battle.

During the Sunset hearing process last week, ABMP Chairman Bob Benson testified. Benson served the CAMTC Board for four years, including a term as the initial Vice Chair. He attended 51 of the 52 meetings held during his tenure. His complete testimony may be read here. Benson’s opening remarks referenced the Vietnam war, in speaking to the present state of affairs at the CAMTC, and he urged the organization to “Declare victory and move on.” I have heard from several veterans who were very upset about that analogy and feel that Benson’s remarks showed a great disrespect for the people who served in Vietnam and a cheapening of those who lost their lives there. I have met Benson personally on several occasions and I don’t think he would intentionally insult veterans, but I have to agree it was not the best choice for comparison.

Beyond that opening faux pas, Benson brings up the following points about the weaknesses he perceives in the CAMTC. One is that CEO Ahmos Netanel is wearing too many hats. There is no controller or operations officer or chief financial officer; Netanel is doing all three jobs, apparently. There’s no doubt he’s a busy man; I run into him myself at national meetings.

Benson also points out other problems: the unwieldy size of the Board–20 people (although currently there are only 19); the fact that there is no central office, which leads to communication and control challenges; a lack of adequate information on the website and delays in getting things posted; 5 years in operation and as of yet no customer satisfaction surveys; a lack of data on how much the CAMTC is paying their management company; a lack of salary standards, and unsatisfactory performance metrics for the dissemination about applicants and certificate holders.He also actually refers to their plan to start approving establishments and massage schools as “delusional.”

Benson isn’t one to complain without offering a solution, so his suggestions are the transition of this organization into a formal state regulatory board, as the other regulated states have; to substitute mandatory licensing for voluntary certification; to use 2015 as a transitional year; and to honor CAMTC certificates and allow holders to convert them to a state license on their expiration date without jumping through any further hoops.

I contacted Ahmos Netanel and gave him the opportunity to respond to Benson’s comments. His reply below is verbatim:

In his comments during the March 10, 2014 legislative Joint Oversight Hearing: Sunset Review of CAMTC, Bob Benson, acting as the voice of ABMP (Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals), advocates for dismantling the current statewide certification program and instituting a state board for regulating massage therapy under the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Bob Benson is certainly dedicated to the massage profession; however, he is a minority voice.  In fact, no CAMTC Board member has ever expressed a position similar to his.

The CAMTC Board has accomplished a great deal.  Yes, as with any new organization, there is room for improvement.  However, in a very short time, by any standard, we have put a statewide infrastructure in place to work closely with police and local government, and there is no doubt that consumers can have confidence that a CAMTC certified professional is educated to safely provide care. 

CAMTC has done more than simply oversee the certification of qualified massage therapy professionals. CAMTC has initiated work with local authorities, local elected officials, professional organizations, other stakeholders and the Legislature to modify its enabling law to correct issues and oversights. Presently, the Sunset review process implemented by the Legislature allows for the substantive amendments needed to control illegal massage parlors.  In doing so, we want to be respectful of the work being done by legitimate massage providers and not return to the era of onerous patchwork enforcement— the kind of control that simply assumes massage is adult entertainment.

CAMTC also investigates and un-approves schools as part of ensuring that certification candidates met strict educational requirements.  Ironically, the state bureau which regulates private post-secondary schools, now BPPE, was allowed to sunset between July 2007 and January 2009.  The lack of an official school oversight body during that time had a significant negative impact on the massage industry and the safety of the public.  Stepping in since 2010, CAMTC, with only minimal resources, has been able to un-approve 47 massage schools that were not meeting minimum standards for massage education and we hope to do more beginning in 2015.

In the ongoing and important effort to eradicate illegal massage parlors, CAMTC is asking the Legislature for the authority to provide statewide registration and investigation of massage establishments.  Many local jurisdictions lack the resources to effectively stem the tide of these illicit businesses and CAMTC is up to the challenge. 

The problems raised by the police chiefs and the cities are our problems, too.  Their complaints and concerns are issues we are addressing with great success in many parts of California.  For example, our training programs have been attended by more than 100 local agencies. And many cities – impressed by our organization – now require CAMTC certification. 

The proliferation of illegal massage parlors is bigger than massage therapy alone, but we are an integral part of the solution.  We propose:

  • Raising educational standards
  • Establishing a registration program for establishments
  • Expending local government control over the use of massage as a subterfuge for prostitution

A state board under DCA has merit. It also has significant drawbacks, including starting a new entity from scratch. It is likely that a new state board would take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to become fully operational.  The cost in terms of time and state resources is not warranted when CAMTC is already in place and functioning successfully. 

Further, a state board simply cannot function as efficiently as a private entity like CAMTC.  Consider, as was discussed on March 10th in the Joint Oversight hearing for the DCA, that the current time for disciplinary actions by DCA boards is 540 days, despite the target of 180 days.  Just scheduling a hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings takes approximately 200 days (testimony by the Legislative Analyst’s Office). Furthermore, the cost to discipline or revoke a state license is over ten times greater than what it costs CAMTC  to discipline or revoke a certificate holder.  CAMTC provides a high level of due process to certificate holders at a lower cost and in fraction of the time that it takes a state board to do the same.

Whatever the merits of moving to a state board under the DCA, it is not going to happen by magic nor will it happen overnight.  It will be a long, costly process. And dismantling CAMTC won’t benefit California consumers or those individuals practicing massage therapy in California.  Rather, it will leave a gaping chasm for both.  

Legitimate massage providers create jobs, promote a healthy lifestyle, and enhance communities.  We cannot go back to the antiquated and oppressive patchwork regulation of the past.  It won’t solve the problem of illicit massage parlors or correct any of the other issues about which cities are concerned.  Only working together – CAMTC alongside cities – can we protect both the public and legitimate massage providers. 

CAMTC is proud of its successes and we look forward to working with the police chiefs, the local communities and Bob himself to do great things for the massage therapy profession and the public.

Respectfully,

Ahmos Netanel

Chief Executive Officer

California Massage Therapy Council

I do not wish to minimize any of the accomplishments and hard work of the CAMTC. I applaud what they have done. However, I’m in agreement with Benson on this one; I’d prefer to see them with mandatory licensing instead of voluntary certification. It won’t be the answer to every problem; it never is. But I do urge them to make the transition, and hopefully, that can be accomplished without the gaping chasm Netanel mentioned.

 

 

 

CAMTC Responds to “Money Grab” Accusation from Massage Today

Last week, Massage Today President Donald Peterson published an article entitled The CAMTC Money Grab. It cast the CAMTC in a very unfavorable light; to make a long story short, it appeared to expose excessive financial wrongdoing at the organization by stating that the CAMTC was paying the expenses and per diem for no less than 14 board members to attend the American Massage Conference. The AMC is a moveable event that is held each year in a different location, and this year’s event was taking place in San Diego.

Peterson backed up his claims of financial excess with a table showing who voted to spend the money and who didn’t, and also stated that Massage Today Senior Associate Editor Kathryn Feather had actually been on the CAMTC conference call when the vote was taken about spending the money. The criticism was that although it was not unanimous, that for the most part the people who voted to spend it were the people who were going to receive it. In reality, that’s the way it goes on all boards; board members vote on things, and that includes where and when to attend events and how much money will be spent on it, so there’s really nothing unusual about that.

I shared this article on my Facebook page, and immediately started hearing from board members of the CAMTC that Peterson’s story was very biased and not telling all the facts. Since I initially shared it and contributed to giving a bad impression of the organization, I made the offer to them that I would give them equal time on my blog to present their side of the story. The fallout from this has been swift, not the least of which is the resignation of Keith Eric Grant from the magazine, which he has been contributing to since 2002. Grant is a CAMTC board member, and someone I  have admired as a writer, a scientist, and a person from afar. He has been blogging about the politics of massage way before I started. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him in person, but we have been FB friends for several years, and as I stated on my page, I would believe pigs would fly before I would believe that he would misrepresent the truth.

Grant’s response to the Massage Today article can be read in its entirety here.

I also immediately heard from Joe Bob Smith, another CAMTC board member, whom I have personally met several times. Joe Bob’s response to my sharing the article on FB was this:

Laura, sometimes your quick fingers get something going without hearing from the other side. As a CAMTC board member, I believe that Massage Today wrote a biased piece with missing and incorrect information. I’ll be happy to defend the actions of the board any day. The CAMTC is made up of 20 terrific volunteers, many working massage therapists themselves. They put a lot of their own time (and time is money) into this organization. Many will be losing money by volunteering at the AMC. They deserve to be reimbursed for out of pocket travel expenses when on board business. And the per diem limit is $211/day (standard government established rates) which includes hotel, not just food. The CAMTC has a very proactive, working board that has done a lot to curb prostitution and human trafficking in the two and a half years it’s been in existence. I do hope you’ll seek me out next time you hear of CAMTC news. While we all have differences of opinions, I would like to make sure the other side gets at least equal opportunity.

I also heard from Mark Dixon, Vice Chairman of the CAMTC. His response to my offer to tell the CAMTC side of the story is printed here verbatim, and was actually his response to Kathryn Feather’s questioning him as to why he voted to support the members being reimbursed, and what his duties would be:

The importance of attending this meeting and interfacing with those attending is reinforced by my continuous attendance at national and statewide conventions of this type since 1975. My comments are strictly related to the question asked, and are about my own participation. It’s not hard, though, to extrapolate that purpose to the other volunteers who will attend the AMC.

Regretfully, CAMTC’s CEO, Ahmos Netanel, has been asked to return his attention to more pressing issues affecting CAMTC, and is unable to reply to your offer.

My response to Kathryn:

As I stated during the debate, I’d agree with the two other entities in disagreement if the event were anywhere but in California. But in San Diego there will be roughly 2000 local massage therapists and affiliated bodyworkers in attendance who either provide or manage massage services. In addition, the venue provides a valuable opportunity to network with influential individuals from around the country who have expressed strong interest in California’s unique massage regulation; in short, a chance to learn, teach and network in a setting that rarely comes to our state.

My specific duties include but will not be limited to meeting with counterparts from other state boards and professional organizations, directing participants to the specific part of the CAMTC that is most helpful to them, assisting with coverage of our exhibit, and following up/developing contacts during the years to come. I expect to be on duty from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon and plan to take one three-hour class at my own expense.

As the first meeting of this type attended by the CAMTC, I believe the small investment is a sound one that will place experienced, knowledgeable professionals before an important audience. I’ve been working meetings of this type since 1975, and have learned that a highly concentrated group of individuals in a convention setting affords an excellent opportunity to save considerable expense of travel and lodging.

Even so, as a volunteer I stand to lose considerably more in income than the reimbursement. Moreover, I attended last month’s AMTA-CA Chapter Educational Conference, representing CAMTC in continuous meetings throughout the weekend. I received zero reimbursement.

Although as Dixon said, CAMTC Executive Director Ahmos Netanel was too busy to reply to my offer to personally tell the other side of the story, Massage Today did print an e-mail that he sent to Peterson in response to the article. It is quite lengthy and can be read in its entirety here.

In summary, Netanel accused Massage Today of misrepresenting the facts in a biased and inflammatory way, and withholding information that would have cleared up the accusations to begin with. By the looks of Netanel’s rebuttal, this article would probably have never gone to print–at least not in its present form–had his responses been considered before the magazine went to press.

Since I’ve been accused of being inflammatory myself–and rightly so, at times–and because I shared the Massage Today article on my FB page, I felt compelled to present the CAMTC side of the story. In fact, Keith Eric Grant and Joe Bob Smith have both occasionally called me on the carpet over something, and I don’t resent that. Although I certainly have my own opinions and biases, it is never my intention to be so biased that I can’t see both sides of the story, or at least give them equal consideration. And like a lot of things, there’s one side, there’s the other side, and somewhere in the middle is the actual truth.

I will also state, in the interest of self-disclosure, that during my five years on the North Carolina Board, I was sent to several conventions on their behalf, and they paid my way. Board members on any board generally give up their own time to volunteer when they could be making substantially more money than the per diems allowed by boards (and in fact some don’t pay a per diem at all), not to mention their time away from their own families, businesses and other activities in the interest of service to the organization. I’m the office manager/receptionist at my own office, and every time I attended a board meeting, I had to pay someone to take my place. My per diem ($100 per day) didn’t come close to covering that, or the inconvenience of driving almost five hours both ways to attend a meeting. While it’s true that there is always going to be some abuse taking place somewhere, I believe that’s the exception and not the rule, and I don’t think this particular incident was a case of abuse of board funds. Mark Dixon quoted the late great Paul Harvey, who always signed off by saying “and there you have the rest of the story.”

My blog is my own opinion, and should not ever be considered to be the opinion of anyone else.

Californication 911

The plot in California just keeps getting thicker. At this point in time, it’s practically sludge, straight from the sewer.

Proponents of CA AB 1822, and specifically President of the California Police Chiefs Association Susan E. Manheimer, have put forth the ridiculous claim that 57% of the applicants approved by CAMTC are known prostitutes, 32% were of questionable character, and only 11% legitimate massage therapists.

Massage Today editor Christine Bondurant has sent a letter to Susan E. Manheimer, President of the California Police Chiefs Association, demanding the proof of the data to support this. I will bet my last dollar it will turn out to be non-existent.

Speaking of dollars, one of my mentors suggested to me that when an action like this is taking place, it’s usually because someone stands to make money on it. Who would that be? If AB 1822 passes, control of massage therapists is going back to the localities. Do the police departments really make that much money on massage regulation? Is it their priority? I doubt it. In my neck of the woods, the police are too busy worrying about murderers and meth labs to pay any attention to massage therapists. Oh, once a year there will be a roundup of the prostitutes operating their “massage parlors” but it certainly isn’t at the top of the radar.

So who does stand to profit from this? Do the police chiefs put the money they collect from massage regulation into their private poker fund? Is Ms. Manheimer getting a cut? Is Arnold thinking it’s going to bail out the financially distressed government in the state of CA?

I think CA, and in fact all states, ought to create some revenue for themselves by legalizing prostitution. Get these people a board and a practice act, and let them buy a license and pay taxes like the rest of us. Legalize all drugs and sell them in the liquor store next to the tequila. The war on drugs certainly hasn’t accomplished anything.

In the meantime, every massage therapist in the state of CA needs to contact Manheimer and reiterate the request for proof the way Massage Today has. That ought to be a public document, if it even exists, which I doubt. Flood her office with polite requests asking to see the data. The address is Susan E. Manheimer, President, California Police Chiefs Association, POB 255745, Sacramento CA, 95865.

You can also visit the legislative webpage and follow the link at the top to make a comment. While it seems like a convenient thing to send an e-mail, the actual and visual impact of having a huge pile of paper arrive in her office will get more attention. It will take five minutes and a stamp.

Just Do It!

Laura Allen