Bill signed to increase access to mental health care

May 26, 2023

Licensed independent clinical social workers in Alabama now have the authority to make clinical mental health diagnoses for patients, just as they can in every other state in the country. A bill granting this authority was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey May 23 at the State Capitol in Montgomery.

“This will significantly expand the availability of access to mental health care services in Alabama,” said Dr. Bob McKinney, associate professor of social work with the College of Community Health Sciences and director of the Office of Case Management and Social Services at University Medical Center, which the College Operates. “Alabama is the last jurisdiction in the United States to allow this authority.”

The bill takes effect in the fall of 2023 and will allow more than2,500 licensed, independent clinical social workers (LICSWs) in Alabama to make mental health diagnoses. To achieve the highest level of licensure, trainees must have a master’s degree or doctorate in social work from an accredited training program, have completed a minimum of 3,000 work hours, completed 96 hours of clinical supervision and must have completed a national training examination.

“They cannot prescribe medicine, cannot diagnose and treat physical conditions, and cannot administer and interpret psychological tests,” McKinney said. “Increasing the scope of practice for the state’s more than 2,500 LICSWs will allow them to help address Alabama’s shortage of mental health providers. Governor Ivey and the members of the Alabama State Legislature have expanded the scope of practice thus helping increase access to mental health care for many of our citizens, particularly in rural areas.”

McKinney also serves on the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners, which was tasked with providing definitions and guidelines for increasing the scope of practice for LICSWs.