Question/Answer Corner: What’s On Your Mind?
Q: Has there been any new legislation that affects clinicians in Colorado?
House Bill 17-1011 has been signed into law by the Colorado Governor, effective July 1, 2017. This new law establishes a statute of limitations for filing complaints with the licensing boards regarding the maintenance of records.
The law also requires clinicians to notify all clients effective July 1, 2017 of this period of time within which any complaints relative to maintenance of the clinical records must be filed with DORA. Thus, it has been interpreted to mean that any client you saw after July 1st of this year must be notified of the terms of the new legislation. Former clients should be notified, but privacy issues abound, so the recommendation is that you call first to confirm the address of the former client and let him/her know you need to mail something to that address. This extra precaution is to protect against violations of former clients’ confidentiality/privacy in the event someone else at the address comes into possession of the letter. This notification issue is, of course, a sticky wicket in terms of former clients, but the legislation includes the requirement to notify former clients.
As to current clients, please check with your support organizations to obtain the recommended changes to your mandatory disclosure form to include the requisite notice of the records retention time period (7 years) and the same time period for filing a complaint with DORA relative to maintenance of records.
House Bill 17-1011 has been codified as C.R.S. 12-43-224(II)(A). Go to your specific discipline’s DORA web site and click on Mental Health Practice Act – make sure you are looking at the 2017 version. You will find the specific language from the bill codified in subsection II (A) of CRS 12-43-224.
Balin Anderson, LCSW, who is a psychoanalyst and psychodynamic therapist and a member of the NASW/CSCSW Practice Standards Committee, shared her version of the notice letter as follows and gave me permission to share it with you. Here it is and her contact info – thanks, Balin!
Dear Former or Current Patient,
I am writing to notify you that a piece of Mental Health Practice legislation (House Bill 17-1011) has been signed into law by the Colorado Governor. This new law establishes a statute of limitations for filing complaints with the licensing boards regarding the maintenance of records.
Any person who alleges that a mental health professional has violated the licensing laws related to the maintenance of records of a client eighteen years of age or older, must file a complaint or other notice with the licensing board within seven years after the person discovered or reasonably should have discovered this. Pursuant to law, my practice will maintain records for a period of seven years commencing on the date of termination of services or on the date of last contact with the client, whichever is later.
When the client is a child, the records will be retained for a period of seven years commencing either upon the last day of treatment or when the child reaches eighteen years of age, whichever comes later, but in no event shall records be kept for more than twelve years.
If you have questions about this new legislation, and how it will impact the maintenance of your health records by my practice, please do not hesitate to be in touch.
Other blog posts you might be interested in:
Transforming Our Relationships With Our Adult Children
Separation Pondering, Continued
Pondering Separation of All Types
Control Versus Resilience: Emotional Balance
Multi-Career Professionals or Juggling Many Balls
DORA: What’s On the Various Boards’ Radar?
I try to attend many of the public Board meetings of all the Mental Health Boards: Social Work, Professional Counselors, Psychologists, Marriage & Family Therapists, Addiction Counselors, and Registered Psychotherapists. Each newsletter, this section will address current issues that arise in various Board meetings that may seem helpful for practicing clinicians.
This month the feedback is that at least the Social Work Board has taken the position that therapists must have notes for each session as a part of their clinical record. Rule 16 governing records does not specify that notes are required for each session (e.g., some clinicians summarize their treatment periodically, etc.), but the Board has taken the position in several cases recently and/or currently before it that such per-session notes are required. The Board does not cite any authority for this conclusion, but rather says it is “best practice” – that is, best practice because the Board says so. No citation. No authority. Nothing from NASW or any other organization says this. And, most importantly, the Board’s own rule on record-keeping (Rule 16) does not state this. But, social workers are being disciplined for not having notes for each session notwithstanding the fact that they have not violated any written rule, ethical opinion, Board policy, or any other stated iteration concerning record-keeping.
So, beware and if you have not been doing so, please be advised that you should start keeping notes for each session even if very brief.
What people said about my most recent seminars:
- “This seminar was extremely insightful and Deb’s delivery and presentation was right up my alley!”
- “I think Deb is a great presenter.”
- “Great job as usual!”
- “Enjoy your workshops – always so informative and interesting. Time flies!”
- “I always enjoy your trainings. I appreciate your flexibility in regards to discussing audience members’ concerns/experiences.”
- “My third seminar with you — you are great! Keep on teaching this class…”
- “Always great! Thank you! Wish you had more throughout the year… You are engaging and positive.”
- “Excellent! I could not think of anything to improve on this workshop. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
- “Excellent presentation. Very informative and well thought out frame work. Thanks Deb!”
- “Presenter was engaging, knowledgeable, and very thorough.”
- “Nice work! Very interesting, especially when examining specific case studies.”
Training/Consultation For Clinicians/Agencies
I have been providing training for high risk clinical situations and legal involvement of the therapist for groups here in Colorado. I consult with individual practitioners, small groups of clinicians, and agencies to help therapists prepare for deposition or trial testimony, or to handle a subpoena request for clinical records.
I am available to meet with individual therapists who need risk prevention consultation and/or with groups of any size for any type of self-protective, clinical practice in this litigious age. I can custom tailor training to your particular agency or small group with questions submitted in advance by participants, if desired.
Upcoming Group Training
I will be providing several training sessions in 2018 on some type of ethical conundrums for high-risk clinical practices. Although the topics have not been finalized, I usually present ways to manage high-risk clinical practices that involve demands for records from clients and/or attorneys. I also help clinicians understand how to prepare for depositions and/or trial testifying.
The general theme of trainings will be: The Troublesome Interface of Legal and Clinical Issues. If you have specific topics you would like to see covered in a training next year, please email me on my web site or: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trainings are generally 3-hours and will probably be noon to 3:00 on Fridays in 2018.
Some of the participants had this to say about Deb’s training:
- “Very helpful and informative. Thank you!”
- “Great info – very knowledgeable and great examples. Great reminders as well as some new nuggets.”
- “Could have listened to you all day! Great info. Lots to think about.”
- “Very good! Lively! Engaging! Knowledgeable! Very important information. Perfect timing.”
- “Deb presented excellent information that I feel will help me with my practice. Excellent info! Great workshop.”
- “I attend multiple, legal, ethical practice trainings and Deb is excellent in presentation. Thank you!”
- “Great advice about staying balanced/grounded in testifying.”
- “I appreciate Deborah being both a clinician and an attorney. Frightening possibilities regarding DORA, but [she helped me] know what possible protections I can possibly provide for clients and myself.”
Legal Services Offered
- Legal Representation & Consultation for grievances (complaints) to licensing boards and/or malpractice lawsuits
- Training & Consultation for Clinicians and Agencies (e.g., respond ethically to subpoenas while protecting yourself and your clients; identify high-risk clients and situations to avoid client disciplinary complaints and harm to clients or third parties)
Deb Henson is an Attorney and LCSW (Tulane School of Social Work, MSW) in private practice in Denver and New Orleans, specializing in mental health licensing defense. She represents clinicians in DORA grievances (CO) and licensing board Complaints (LA) and regularly consults with clinicians in both states to help them deal with legal and clinical conundrums, such as: (1) the receipt of subpoenas for records or testimony; (2) the escalation of high-risk clinical situations; and (3) other sticky ethical wickets that arise in clinical practice. Deb helps clinicians develop self-protective, clinically sound and legally proper strategies for risk prevention.
Deb also maintains a clinical practice in Denver, with an office in the Green Mountain area of Lakewood. Through that private practice, Deb offers individual and couple therapy, primarily, and will be starting an ongoing women’s therapy group in the Fall (ages 35-65; interviews for group placement will be conducted upon referral). Referrals for the group are welcome – 504.232.8884.
Deb has been presenting half- and full-day seminars on “Avoiding Ethics Complaints and Malpractice Lawsuits” or “Legal and Ethical Issues in Clinical Practice” around the country through PESI, Inc. for over 7 years and presenting for many CEU groups in Louisiana and Colorado. She also has lectured for Tulane School of Social Work Continuing Education and the University of Texas School of Social Work (Austin) Continuing Professional Development program, and for many other clinical and counseling groups. Deb started her own training biz — Beyond Ethics, LLC — in 2009. Contact Deb for group presentations to agency staff and/or private practice consultation groups.
Deb can be reached through her law and social work web site: www.deborahmhenson.com or through her training web site: www.beyond-ethics.com. Deb can also be emailed at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. And, you can use the old tried and true method of calling her at 504.232.8884.