- Report Published -
|Study of the Advisability of Merging the Board of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology and the Board of Hearing Aid Specialists|
|Department of Health Professions; Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation|
|SJR 362 (Regular Session, 1999)|
|Background and Authority|
Senate Joint Resolution 362, patroned by Senator Joseph Gartlan and House Joint Resolution 669, patroned by Delegate Karen Darner, both passed by the 1999 Session of the General Assembly requests that the Department of Health Professions and Department of Profession and Occupational Regulation, assisted by the Speech-Language Hearing Association of Virginia (SHAV), the Virginia Society of Hearing Aid Specialists, Inc. (VSHS) and interested consumers, examine the advisability of merging the Board of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology and the Board of Hearing Aid Specialists. Both resolutions reference the benefits of combined regulations and the enforcement thereof. The resolutions note that such action could result in government efficiency as well as improved customer service. The resolutions further note that the Boards, along with the associations, have, in the past, been unsuccessful in developing a proposal to merge the boards. The resolutions direct the departments to submit their findings and recommendations to the Governor and the 2000 Session of the General Assembly.
Study Advisory Committee on Board Merger
The first board merger discussions began in 1998 and involved the development of legislation proposing the elimination of a duplicate license for audiologists to fit and dispense hearing aids. The proposal propelled the issue of board merger. The public comment, most of it received from members of the professions involved in the possible merger, was negative and the proposal was withdrawn. The departments agreed in concept that the public and the profession would be well served by merging the two boards. The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation indicated two concerns: 1) there must be equal representation for Hearing Aid Specialists on the newly-created board and 2) audiologists must continue to successfully complete the examination to fit and dispense hearing aids before being permitted to do so in the Commonwealth. The concerns expressed by the Department of Health Professions related to allowing audiologists credentialed after 1993 to dispense and fit hearing aids without additional testing.
Key participants in the present study, as outlined in the resolutions, were the Department of Health Professions, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the Virginia Society of Hearing Aid Specialists, Inc. and the Speech-Language Hearing Association of Virginia ("SHAV"). An advisory committee was created to serve as resource to the departments. The committee was comprised of one member of each respective board, two members of the Speech-Language Hearing Association of Virginia, one citizen member of each respective board and two members of the Virginia Society of Hearing Aid Specialists, Inc.
Conclusion and Recommendation by the Department of Health Professions and the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
It appears that with the strong disagreement among the licensees of the three professions - hearing aid specialists, audiologists and speech pathologists - that the merging of the boards at this time would not enhance the current service delivery system to the citizens of Virginia. To provide the opportunity for both boards to explore the advantages for a merger in the future, the Department of Health Professions and the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation recommends the following:
Creation of a liaison relationship between the Board of Audiology and Speech Pathology and the Board for Hearing Aid Specialists through the establishment of an ex-officio member position on each of the two boards, respectively. Each ex-officio member shall be appointed by the membership of his board and shall represent his board at all meetings of the other board.
Should the Virginia General Assembly deem this a worthwhile proposal, it is further recommended that the two ex-officio member positions be established by statute in the composition of each of the two boards and that the two departments be charged with the responsibility of reporting the outcome of this liaison relationship and recommendations regarding the merging the two boards to the 2003 Virginia General Assembly.
The liaisons could better educate each board regarding board matters and common concerns, scopes of practice and technological advances in each profession. As a result the boards would be better able to share information to better educate those with hearing impairments and the members of their families.
One concern raised by some of the advisory committee members pertained to the blurring of lines between the professions of audiology and hearing aid specialists. With the merger of the boards there could be greater confusion to the public regarding the education and training of both professionals.
The liaison relations would enhance and foster greater under-standing between the professions and dispel protectionist ideals of each profession. A better understanding and appreciation of each of the professions is greatly needed in better educating the consumer. A suggestion of joint publications and educational programs to children, parents, and the aged population was deemed by the Committee to benefit all that are hearing impaired and in need of services. In any event, by working together, the two Boards may revisit the possibility of merger in two years. By that time, many unresolved issues may be addressed for the betterment of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
For these reasons, it is the recommendation of the Department of Health Professions and the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation that the Boards be tasked with the responsibility of exploring the advantages of a merger through the recommended liaison relationship between the two boards during the next two years.