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Governor Abbott Appoints Three To Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jodie Elder, Ph.D. and reappointed Anthony Scoma, D.Min. and Evelyn Husband Thompson to the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists for terms set to expire on February 1, 2027. The board licenses and regulates Marriage and Family Therapists in Texas.

Jodie Elder, Ph.D. of Dallas is an Adjunct Professor of Counseling in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, as well as a speaker and presenter. She is a member of the Texas Counseling Association, Texas Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, American Counseling Association, Relational Therapists of Dallas, and the International Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Elder received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Texas State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision from Texas A&M University – Commerce. 

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Take Our Non-Member Survey and Enter to Win a Gift Card From Texas Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

If you are a mental health professional concerned with the well-being of families, couples, and individuals in the State of Texas, the Texas Association for Marriage and Family Therapy would like to know how we can better serve you. Please take the time to complete this 3-question survey for a chance to win one of several Amazon gift cards. Your responses will be anonymous. 

While you’re here, have you registered for our 2021 Virtual Conference: Standing in Solidarity: Confronting the Uncomfortable featuring Elliott Connie and Dr. Tequilla Hill? We hope to hear from you or see you soon!

Take the Survey

BHEC Update: BHEC Moving to Online Applications Only

To provide better customer service and greater efficiency, the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council is moving toward online applications for each of its licensing programs.

Transitioning to online applications eliminates or reduces the need to process paper and fees, and verifies that application materials and fees are received. The Council anticipates the resulting reduction in workload on staff will translate into faster processing time over the long term. 

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Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapy Quarterly Board Meeting

Your TAMFT Board is proud to represent you by attending regular TSBEMFT meetings. You may download a full report of the most recent TSBEMFT meeting here.

Meeting Summary:

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TAMFT Legislative Update: BHEC Requests Attorney General Clarification

TAMFT Legislative Update: BHEC Requests Attorney General Clarification on Authority to Adopt Code of Conduct Rules

By way of a quick update on an important action taken late Monday by the Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC), please see the anticipated Attorney General’s opinion request linked here, seeking legal clarification in connection with proposed rules changes to a social worker’s “Code of Conduct” affecting their anti-discrimination rules as promulgated by the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners alongside their licensure statute.

TAMFT has been actively involved from the beginning in a wide array of BHEC policy issues, including the delivery of this testimony on the social worker’s anti-discrimination code of conduct matter. TAMFT continues to adhere to the belief that discrimination in any form is unethical and should play no part in the delivery of quality mental health care. 

As you may know, an attorney general opinion request is made by an authorized requestor, such as the head of the BHEC, seeking a written interpretation of existing law. It is important to note that attorney general opinions cannot create new provisions in the law or correct unintended, undesirable effects of the law, nor can they resolve factual disputes. At the heart of the request is the extent of BHEC’s authority to propose and adopt code of conduct rules, which also carries some potential impacts upon the independence of the Texas State Board of Examiners for Marriage and Family Therapists (TSBEMFT). As you can see from the opinion request, TAMFT is listed as an affected and interested group.

TAMFT will continue to actively engage on this and on other legislative issues of interest, through direct advocacy, keeping our members informed and taking actions that retain the high standards of care and ethical practices of licensees and to those we provide services to. We will be contacting the other mental health associations, including the Texas Counseling Association, Texas Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, Texas Chapter, the Texas Association of School Psychologists and the Texas Association of Psychological Association, to stress the legislative intent behind the retention of independent licensure boards when the BHEC was established.

BHEC Restores SW Anti-Discrimination Language

BHEC Votes to Restore Anti-Discrimination Language in 

Social Worker Code of Conduct 

 

While the meeting continues, the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) voted unanimously to restore the original rule language in connection with anti-discrimination provisions contained in the social worker code of conduct, which is welcome news! Also, the BHEC Board, which individually and collectively denounced any intention to discriminate, voted to seek an Attorney General’s opinion regarding the legal appropriateness of the code’s nondiscrimination protections in relation to the conformity with state and federal law.

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TAMFT Statement on Recent Changes to Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners' Code of Conduct

TAMFT Statement on Recent Changes to Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners' Code of Conduct

TAMFT has taken note of the proposed changes approved by the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners, in connection with certain anti-discriminatory provisions contained in their code of conduct. While we appreciate the gravity of this issue facing licensed social workers in Texas, we wanted to express our thoughts on the matter to help inform our members:

  1. Our mission: TAMFT is a state association dedicated to the advancement and promotion of marriage and family therapy in Texas.
  2. The Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners does not have any governance over LMFTs or LMFT-Associates.
  3. The Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, our licensing board, at this time does not have language regarding the specific discrimination of groups and is therefore not directly affected by this particular rule change.
  4. Texas MFTs have long adhered and continue to adhere to AAMFT’s code of conduct, as is taught and reiterated in our graduate coursework here in Texas, which states “Marriage and family therapists provide professional assistance to persons without discrimination on the basis of race, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, health status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.”

With that said, TAMFT works very closely with the National Association of Social Workers, Texas Chapter, the Texas Society for Clinical Social Work, the Texas Counseling Association, the Texas Psychological Association, and others on a variety of state policy and regulatory issues designed to facilitate access to care, and protect the health and safety of the public. As part of the regulated community for over 29 years, TAMFT often shares its views through the public testimony process, which we believe helps inform our respective professional licensure boards on a range of substantive matters through constructive deliberation and input, as they seek to faithfully fulfill their appointed duties, by setting and enforcing appropriate qualifications and competency requirements, as well as establishing specific ethical and professional standards, which also includes the ability to modify, suspend, revoke or discipline licensees if needed. 

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TSBEMFT October Update

TSBEMFT OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE

On Wednesday, October 21, Governor Abbott's office officially announced the appointment of three new members to the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, which licenses and regulates marriage and family therapists in Texas.

TAMFT is pleased to share that Jeanene Smith and Russ Bartee, both longtime TAMFT members, leaders, and advocates for MFTs in Texas, were appointed as professional members of the board. They have both worked tirelessly on behalf of TAMFT in the recent past, and they are well-acquainted with the issues facing LMFTs and the general public in Texas. Daniel Parrish was also appointed to the board as a public member. Furthermore, current board member, Lisa Merchant, also a TAMFT member, has been appointed chairperson of TSBEFMT. See the news announcement here.

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TAMFT Legislative Update

TAMFT Legislative Update: Governor Abbott, HHSC Extend Flexibilities for Medicaid, CHIP Providers During COVID-19 Response

Governor Greg Abbott last week announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is extending flexibilities to Medicaid and CHIP recipients and providers through October 23, 2020, as the state continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. These flexibilities will minimize face-to-face interactions and ensure continuity of care for clients during the COVID-19 response.

Many services are being provided to clients using telemedicine and telehealth including medical, behavioral health, case management, professional and specialized therapy services, and certain components of Texas Health Steps medical check-ups.

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Transition to BHEC and New Licensing Requirements

BHEC Update: Transition to BHEC Reminder and New Licensing Requirements

A reminder that as of September 1, 2020, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists (TSBEMFT) will move out of the Health and Human Services commission (HHSC) and relocate to the Behavioral Health Executive Commission (BHEC). The TSBEMFT will remain an autonomous board with control over our licenses, rules and profession. BHEC will assume administrative functions such as processing license issuances and renewals, handling investigative complaints before potentially sending them to our board, and ensuring that the background operations run smoothly so that our board can operate as effectively as possible.

What This Means for License Holders

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TSBEMFT Update: New BHEC Website

TSBEMFT Update: New BHEC Website

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists is an independent licensing board administratively attached to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). The Board, as an independent entity, maintains a management structure and decision-making authority separate from HHSC. This message is an official communication from the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists that TAMFT wanted to share with its members:

Pursuant to House Bill 1501, 86th Legislature, Regular Session (2019), regulatory authority over Marriage and Family Therapists is transitioning from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) as of September 1, 2020. 

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TSBEMFT Transfer to BHEC

TSBEMFT Update: TSBEMFT Transfer to BHEC and Impact on August Renewals and Current and Future Applicants

TAMFT recently received the following update from TSBEMFT. Please take note of this important information.

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists is an independent licensing board administratively attached to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). The Board, as an independent entity, maintains a management structure and decision-making authority separate from HHSC. This message is an official communication from the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists.

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TDI Extends Telemedicine Emergency Rule to September

Legislative Update: TDI Extends Telemedicine Emergency Rule Into September

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is extending a requirement that insurers cover telemedicine services, including mental health visits, at the same rate as in-person visits. An emergency rule in place since March helps doctors across Texas treat their patients and limit the spread of COVID-19.

“This extension will help protect patients and our state’s health-care professionals while maintaining access to care,” said Insurance Commissioner Kent Sullivan.

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BHEC Update: Nondiscrimination Statement Released

BHEC Releases Non-Discrimination Statement

The Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council recently released a non-discrimination statement, shared below:

Commitment to Non-discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations

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We See You: Social Justice Resources

We See You: A Letter From President Linda Metcalf

Dear TAMFT Members and Friends, 

The past week has presented our nation with tragic events that have caused many of us to take pause and consider how to help all of our communities. The TAMFT Board wanted to reach out to you with support—to write this letter, I asked every Board member to provide their thoughts so that together we could send our message to you and your community. I am grateful for their contributions and have crafted them into the rest of this letter. 

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TAMFT Announces Partnership With Texas Attorney Kenda Dalrymple

TAMFT Announces Attorney Partnership as a New Members-Only Benefit!

TAMFT is excited to announce a partnership with Texas-based attorney Kenda Dalrymple, of Dalrymple, Shellhorse, Ellis & Diamond, LLP, to provide TAMFT members with answers to frequently asked legal and ethical questions and the opportunity to consult with an attorney who understands Texas law and regulations when needed. 

Members can access our new members-only Legal &Ethical FAQs page starting May 1 by logging into the TAMFT site with your member information. Included on this new webpage is a form to submit requests for legal consultation. When seeking legal consultation, please first read the FAQs section, then submit your question via the form. If you are not an active TAMFT member and cannot view the FAQs page, you may join or renew your membership here.

HIPAA and Teletherapy Updates

HIPAA & TELETHERAPY UPDATES

HHS Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for enforcing certain regulations issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, to protect the privacy and security of protected health information, namely the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules (the HIPAA Rules). 

During the COVID-19 national emergency, which also constitutes a nationwide public health emergency, covered health care providers subject to the HIPAA Rules may seek to communicate with patients, and provide telehealth services, through remote communications technologies. Some of these technologies, and the manner in which they are used by HIPAA covered health care providers, may not fully comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Rules. 

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TSBEMFT Staff Reduced and Telephone Contact Suspended

TSBEMFT REPORTS REDUCED STAFFING, SUSPENDS TELEPHONE ACCESS

TAMFT has received the following update from TSBEMFT to share with our members:

"Due to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak we are operating with significantly reduced staff. As a result we have been forced to suspend telephone access. This is being done so the remaining staff can devote their time strictly to processing license applications. Given the rapidly changing circumstances we cannot provide an estimate for the resumption of access to staff by telephone."

TSBEMFT can still be reached via email at the following addresses:

Information is available on the TSBEMFT website at www.dshs.texas.gov/plc.

Licensure Test Dates Rescheduled and Teletherapy Updates

A Letter From TAMFT: Licensure Test Dates Rescheduled & Teletherapy Updates

Dear TAMFT members and Friends,

We received the following information today that I felt was important to send to you:

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Emergency Rule for Telemedicine Announced by Governor Abbott

Emergency Rule for Telemedicine Announced by Governor Abbott

Governor Abbott announced on March 17 adoption of an emergency rule governing telemedicine and telehealth services provided by health professionals—specifically including mental health professionals—to reduce barriers to accessing services as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Abbott directed the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to issue an emergency rule to help improve access to care, while mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

  • TDI filed an emergency rule requiring insurers to pay the same amount for telemedicine and telehealth services, including specific coverage for mental health services, as they do for in-person services.
  • The rule applies to in-network services for state-regulated health plans including Medicaid, Medicare, and TRS. In addition, health plans may not limit, deny, or reduce payments based on the platform used (i.e. Skype, FaceTime, and telephone) by the provider to deliver services, or require documentation beyond what is currently required for in-person visits. This applies specifically to HIPAA compliant platforms for telemedicine/technology assisted services. Essentially, at the federal level, Health and Human Services relaxed HIPAA standards to allow providers to use platforms that are not specifically HIPAA compliant (like FaceTime and Skype). In the HHS statement, they continued the prohibition on sites like TikTok and others that would explicitly break client confidentiality. The goal of the action is to provide access to care, whether it’s the provider or client/patient who needs to use a noncompliant platform in order for the care to take place. The emergency rule can remain in effect for up to 120 days.


The emergency rule does not expand coverage beyond what is currently included in an individual’s health care plan or cover services provided before March 17, 2020. The rule allowing health plans to deny payment for services delivered by audio-only telephone, text, or fax remains in effect.

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