On February 10, a small group of Montana marriage and family therapists gathered in Helena at the capitol to lobby for three bills that can significantly impact the ability of MFTs to practice in Montana.
Montana's legislative body meets once every two years for four months. The legislators take time away from lives, careers, and family to serve Montana and its citizens. Most legislators do not have staff to help with the tremendous work load of making, researching, supporting or fighting the laws that are introduced. Therefore, MFTs had a responsibility to come to the capitol and educate about our profession and the laws that would impact us.
In Montana, licensure for MFTs is fairly new, starting in 2009. Because of that, third party reimbursement is often a challenge. Also, we are not included in some scope of practice laws that affect our peers licensed as professional counselors and social workers. Because of this, our Montana Association for Marriage and Family Therapy board decided to hire a lobbyist to help. We would not have been able to afford the help if AAMFT was not willing to assist with the cost through the practice protection fund, for which we are very grateful.
The three bills we have introduced involve MFTs receiving insurance reimbursement, Medicaid reimbursement, and to include MFTs to be able to use psychological testing instruments. Without this, an LMFT in Montana has a difficult time being reimbursed and could face charges for using a test instrument which he or she was trained to provide.
To prepare for lobbying day, we ordered brochures from AAMFT and put together a board of information, including where MFTs were located in Montana. We got lots of food and put together platters to entice people to come learn about MFTs and our bills.
Our experience was amazing. Few of us had lobbied before or been involved in the political process at the state capitol. We came from all over the state. Fortunately we had all arrived the night before since an ice storm hit us the morning of the lobbying day. Once we arrived, we were greeted with warmth and interest from the legislators and other capital staff. They were helpful, interested, and appreciative that we would come and bring them food. We found ourselves explaining what marriage and family therapy is, how were are trained, what services we provide, and how they could support us legislatively. So far our effort has paid off as two of our bills have passed the house and are on to the Senate.
Montana Association for Marriage and Family Therapy is so grateful to AAMFT for assisting us in our lobbying efforts to increase our ability to practice in the state of Montana.
Participants were Rachel Guernsey, Cyndi McNeil, Pamela Bing Perry, Andrea Foran, and Dianna Keane. Christine King and Pamela Bing Perry also participated by testifying for committee hearings.