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Proposal notes need for music therapy licensure

By Lee Ann Schutz
Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, center, testifies in opposition to a bill sponsored by Rep. Jerry Newton, right, that would create music therapist licensure. University of Minnesota professor Edward Todd Schwartzberg, left, spoke in support of the bill. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Music can touch people in many ways, but when it is used as a form of therapy should there be more oversight and regulation of practitioners?

It is used in the treatment of autism, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and patients with mental health issues, and Rep. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids sponsors HF2366 that would lay out educational requirements, establish fees and create an advisory council to help establish standards for music therapy licensure and enforcement measures.

Newton told the House Subcommitee on Licensing that he’d like to see Minnesota become the eighth state to adopt licensing regulations.

Discussion of Rep. Jerry Newton's music therapist licensure bill

No action was taken, but supporters hope the bill could become part of a larger omnibus bill in 2016.

“Because we are going to have a short, fast, furious session, we want to get the bill moving as quickly as possible,” Newton said.

Those seeking to practice music therapy would be required to have a bachelor’s degree and complete an internship, said Edward Todd Schwartzberg, a professor in the University of Minnesota music therapy program. He said formalized music therapy licensure would help providers distinguish between the myriad of health care music options.

“We want to ensure that the public is protected if individuals present themselves as music therapists by requiring that these music therapists have met national standards of clinical practice,” he said.

Occupational licensing, however, puts unnecessary restraints on those seeking certain career paths, said Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, which opposes most public licensure efforts.

“As far as I can tell, there is no public policy institution that supports this level of occupational licensing. …. You cannot say you are in favor of free markets and support occupational licensing,” he said.

Newton’s bill officially sits in the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee. Its companion, SF2197, sponsored by Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin), awaits action by the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee.

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