Rhode Island to join interstate social worker compact

 

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Dan McKee has signed legislation introduced by Sen. Alana M. DiMario and Rep. Justine A. Caldwell to have Rhode Island join as a founding member an interstate compact to allow social workers licensed in member states to practice in other member states.

The legislation (2024-S 2184A, 2024-H 7350A), which was part of the Senate’s HEALTH Initiative of legislative priorities, is aimed at better enabling Rhode Islanders to access the behavioral health services they need amid staffing challenges in the health care industry, and to make it easier for qualified social workers — particularly active military members and their spouses — to work in Rhode Island. It also helps preserve continuity of care when patients or their clinicians move across state lines.

“When it comes to finding the right person to help you with the challenges you’re experiencing, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation,” said Senator DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown, New Shoreham), who works as a licensed mental health counselor in private practice. “Most social workers have a specialty in the client population they work with, so by allowing Rhode Island to enter into compacts like this one we are making it easier for patients and those seeking assistance to find the right person at the right time for them. In addition, we’re allowing our social workers to practice with more flexibility and to connect with a broader range of potential clients.”

Said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), “We have a mental health crisis in our state, especially among our young people, and social workers are essential to solving this crisis. By joining this compact we will not only increase the availability of social workers to Rhode Islanders but also make Rhode Island a more attractive place for social workers to work and reside. Joining early also gives us a seat at the table as a founding member of the compact.”

The legislation makes Rhode Island one of the founding states in the interstate licensure compact for social workers, which allows Rhode Island to participate in rulemaking to establish the interstate credential.

Once the state joins and establishes an oversight commission, social workers in Rhode Island can apply for the reciprocity privileges provided through the compact. Professionals practicing under this compact will still need to hold an active license in good standing in their home state in additional to meeting the requirements for an interstate license. They will also still be accountable to the oversight department for each state they serve in.

“The General Assembly has taken a critically important step by passing the interstate compact for social work,” said Rebekah Gewirtz, executive director of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts chapters of the National Association of Social Workers. “Rhode Islanders need better access to mental health services, and need to be able to continue relationships with their social worker even if they cross state lines. When this compact becomes law, participating social workers will be able to continue to best serve clients and communities in Rhode Island. We want to thank lead sponsors Senator DiMario and Representative Caldwell for their tireless work on behalf of vulnerable communities, mental health access and the social work profession.”

 

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