/ Modified mar 20, 2024 9:48 a.m.

Interstate Social Work Compact makes progress in AZ Legislature

The Arizona Senate bill is part of a nationwide effort to streamline social worker's licensing regulations.

360 az cap dome statue File image of the Winged Victory weather vane atop the copper dome at the historic Capitol Building in Phoenix.
AZPM Staff

Social workers in Arizona are paying close attention to an interstate compact moving quietly through the Arizona Legislature that they say would expand nationwide access to counseling services.

A House Committee heard testimony this week on the Social Work Licensure Compact, a national effort that’s trying to reform state licensing requirements to allow social workers to practice in multiple states.

If passed, more than 15,000 Arizona social workers would be able to apply for a new multistate license, valid for states that adopt the compact.

Retired Sergeant Daniel Brown, whose best friend died of suicide, told lawmakers in emotional testimony that Arizona’s current social worker licensing requirements keep some veterans from accessing critical mental health services.

“I want you to imagine a young airman getting out of the air force here at Luke Air Force Base. He has been receiving care for PTSD and he wants to go home to his home state. Without SB1036 he would have to stop his care and start over. I can tell you they don’t start over. My friend didn’t,” he said.

Brown also explained his own struggle with life after military service, and said it took him a year to find a therapist that clicked.

“I built a bond with my therapist. They were my focal point in the storm,” he said.

The only reason he was able to continue seeing that therapist when he moved from Arizona to Texas was because they held a license in both states, Brown said.

“Three years into that journey, and I would have had to start over. I was fortunate, but that is not normally the case,” he said.

Terri Waibel, founder of Arizona’s Center for Compassion, told lawmakers there are many scenarios in which social work services need to happen across state lines.

She said current restrictions have prevented her from supporting a family whose child died while attending a university in another state.

“Throughout their weeks of time out of state, they were forced to attempt to emotionally cope on their own without familiar and trusted professional therapeutic support,” Waibel said.

According to the Council of State Governments, the compact aims to expand telehealth services capabilities and also help with social worker shortages.

Seven states need to adopt the compact in order to become official. So far, Missouri is the only state to pass it, but it is currently pending in 23 state legislatures.

The Senate bill passed its main House committee 8-2 this week, but still needs final approval from the House and the Governor’s Office.

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