Written By: Joni Alberg, PhD, AG Bell public policy and chapter relations
In an effort for qualified professionals to reach more families, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in collaboration of the National Council of State Boards of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, has been working to create an interstate occupational licensure compact for audiologists and speech language pathologists.
If established, these professionals would be able to practice across state lines and through telepractice. In support of this initiative, AG Bell leaders have been encouraged to connect with their state ASHA chapters to move legislation forward.
A significant challenge for many of the families who look to AG Bell for support is finding qualified professionals near to their homes. Since 2005, the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language has worked to increase the number of certified listening and spoken language providers (denoted as LSLS Cert. AVT or LSLS Cert. AVEd) so that children who are deaf and hard of hearing and their families will have access to qualified professionals in their immediate geographic area. Though we have made great strides in increasing the number of qualified professionals, there remains a need for many families to access these services via telehealth. The ASLP-IC will expand opportunities for children who are deaf and hard of hearing and their families to obtain services from qualified providers who may live far from their homes, in other states or regions of the country.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased the need for the ALSP-IC. The demand for telehealth services is greater than ever before. We have seen some restrictions for telepractice eased, allowing providers to bill for services provided remotely. Unfortunately, audiologists and SLPs still are not allowed to provide services across state lines. While the COVID pandemic will hopefully come to an end one day soon, children who are deaf and hard of hearing will continue to need access to professionals who may live far away from them; this is particularly important for children in rural areas. The ALSP-IC can provide this continuity of service delivery for years to come.
In order for the compact to become operational, a minimum of 10 states must enact legislation for the compact. To date, 12 states have introduced bills during the 2020 legislative session and five states—Oklahoma, North Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming—have passed legislation. The Georgia legislature also passed an interstate compact bill, however, it was vetoed by the governor. At least five more states need to pass state laws before the interstate compact becomes reality.
What does the interstate compact mean for practice?
With the interstate compact, audiologists and speech-language pathologists residing in states that have passed laws will be able to provide in-person or telehealth services in each of the other states in the compact. In order for these professionals in other states to have this privilege, their states would have to pass legislation allowing them to join.
While it is not likely the ALSP-IC will become reality in 2020, ASHA is already looking ahead to 2021!
For more information and to find out what you can do, visit the ALSP-IC website. If you think this is something in which your chapter would like to be involved, you will have the support of ASHA and AG Bell to assist you—including providing the language for the legislation.
Joni Alberg can be reached at email@example.com.