Sonia Furstenau, MLA

Proposed Health Professions Act would eliminate barriers, guide regulations

Is your doctor a member of good standing with the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons? They must be if they are practicing in British Columbia. Regulating professionals is expected in our society. It helps to protect public safety by setting mandatory standards and developing disciplinary protocols that hold every professional accountable. Speech therapists, nurses, dentists, naturopaths, physiotherapists, pharmacists, teachers, engineers, biologists and so many more must belong to a regulatory college in order to practice their profession.

Unlike the rest of Canada, those working with some of our most vulnerable – counsellors, and social workers — are not fully regulated. Counsellors have no mandatory oversight, meaning that anyone can call themselves a counsellor despite their education or experience. Social workers exist in a patchwork system of regulation that is confusing to the public, with those working in the Ministry of Children and Family Development exempted from the BC College of Social Worker’s oversight.

It is essential that professionals who serve some of the most vulnerable people in our province operate within a transparent, easy-to-navigate regulatory framework to ensure public safety, professional accountability, and transparency.

Mental health and physical health are deeply connected and interdependent. We need to recognize that mental health professionals should expect the same professional standing as all health providers, and that the public should expect the same transparency and accountability.

The BC Green Caucus has introduced important new legislation that will lead to better mental health care for British Columbians. The amendments to the Health Professions Act would eliminate barriers for regulation for counsellors and social workers under the Act by ensuring that the guiding principle for regulation is public safety, rather than leaving this decision to the discretion of the Health Minister.

This legislation is a first step in regulating counselling therapists and social workers, meaning that they are treated as healthcare professionals and held to the same standards as other professions, like dentists and psychologists.

This is a public health issue. As we enter the recovery phase of COVID-19, we are reminded by health care providers that mental health issues will most likely be on the rise.

To manage the effects of this pandemic, and to respond to the increasing rates of untreated mental health issues, we need accessible, safe, and consistent mental health services for British Columbians. The BC Green Caucus MLAs are pursuing steps to build a roadmap for accessible, safe, and effective mental healthcare for all British Columbians.

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