Virginia is accelerating social worker licensing process

Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 4:18 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Since the pandemic, Family Service of Roanoke Valley has stayed busy. More than 40 people are on the waitlist for counseling.

“I think one of the beautiful things that had come out of the COVID pandemic is that people, the stigma around mental health is decreased,” said Family Service of Roanoke Valley Clinical Director Sarah Harig.

Regulatory changes by the Virginia Board of Social Work will increase access. Social workers who move to Virginia will have an easier time continuing their work in the commonwealth going forward.

“Without, I think it was 1,000 hours of extra supervision that they were required to do in order to be licensed here,” said Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services Commissioner Nelson Smith. “Provided that they are able to show proof of a license in good standing in another state and proof that they’ve taken an examination similar to Virginia’s, as well.”

A Virginia Health Care Foundation 2021 report found the commonwealth ranked 39th in mental health care. Reflecting those numbers, nearly 70% of localities have mental health professional shortages.

“There is a critical shortage in Virginia of mental health professionals, and this is a significant step by the Board of Social Work to help address this shortage,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “A priority of my administration is to reduce state regulations and regulatory barriers, and this action shows how regulations can be streamlined to remove barriers to practice with the goal of bringing more mental health professionals to the Commonwealth.”

Harig says professionals simply haven’t been able to keep up with increasing demand.

“And counselors, social workers, anything that we can do to help decrease the burden of getting licensed while still providing quality services, is going to be really, really important. Because I don’t think the need for mental health services is going down anytime soon.”

Smith says this will positively impact the Commonwealth.

“Getting Virginians the care they need when they need it,” said Smith.

Harig is hoping this will help the burnout professionals are experiencing.