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| 3 minutes read

NY to Expand Diagnostic Privileges for Some Mental Health Providers, But Not All

It is almost here after a nearly 2 year wait. New York State is set to expand its list of mental health professionals who can diagnose and develop assessment-based treatment plans for mental health patients. Currently those with mental health diagnostic privileges in New York are limited to MDs, PhDs and LCSWs.  

Beginning June 24, 2024, NY Education Law Section 8401-A, Rules of the New York State Board of Regents, and 8 NYCRR 79-9.4  will expand this list to include some but not all current and future Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) and Licensed Psychoanalysts (LPSAs). It will not include Licensed Creative Arts Therapists (LCATs) or counselors holding only any other degrees, titles, or licenses. 

Once obtained, the privilege will be valid for life unless otherwise revoked, annulled or suspended by the Board of Regents. Going forward, the credential will be renewed at the same interval as the underlying license. 

The change could have important health insurance reimbursement valuations for those providers who qualify and obtain this credential. It is not yet clear how challenging it will be to navigate this application process. As of today, the diagnostic privileges application materials are not yet available from NY state, but already there are concerns about some possibly unintended gaps in the legislation's rollout. 

“'Diagnosis' means the process of distinguishing, beyond a general assessment, between similar mental, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and addictive disorders, impairments, and disabilities within a psychosocial framework on the basis of their similar and unique characteristics consistent with accepted classification systems.

“'Development of assessment-based treatment plans' means the development of an integrated plan of prioritized interventions, that is based on the diagnosis and psychosocial assessment of the client, to address mental, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and addictive disorders, impairments, and disabilities."

There will be two pathways for those current and future licensed in New York state as an LMHC, LMFT or LPSA to qualify for diagnostic privileges. The first is being called the “standard pathway” and the other will be a temporarily available “alternative pathway.” 

Both pathways will require LMHSc, LMFTs, and LPSAs to determine and document  two important factors about their education and experience. 

The “standard pathway” requires that: a) their degree program included 60 semester hours with 12 credits of clinical instruction (some older programs had fewer); and b) their work experience included 2000 hours of supervised direct client contact. 

The temporarily available “alternative pathway” requires: a) the same educational requirements as above, that their degree program included 60 semester hours with 12 credits of clinical instruction (and again, some older programs had fewer); and b) they amass at least three years of supervised experience in diagnosis and treatment planning. The experience may be gained as a student intern, working in a NY state certified facility, or at a private practice owned by a mental health practitioner with diagnostic privileges (MD, PhD or LCSW) from whom they received one hour of supervision per week in diagnosis and treatment planning. This alternative pathway is set to expire on June 24, 2027.

At this point, if a currently licensed and practicing LMHC, LFMT or LPSA wants diagnostic privileges but does not now meet the two qualifications in either pathway, they will be required to return to a university for supplemental education program hours, and/or make arrangements to obtain the necessary supervised hours. 

Unfortunately, the new law does not allow for practitioners to obtain supervised experience at their own practices. NYSED chose not to offer privately practicing professionals a pathway to hire an outside supervisor, as it once did for the now obsolete R designation for LCSWs who formerly had to document three years of post licensing psychotherapy supervision. 

Clearly there are operational concerns about this new credential and its rollout, especially for those choosing the alternative pathway to obtain diagnostic privileges who are already licensed and working in their own practices.

Colligan Law LLP is here to assist practitioners and their supervisors with questions and concerns. We will evaluate the application materials when they become available, and note how the private practice and supervision gaps will be closed for some or all of the affected practitioners when the state's application guidance is issued. 

There are operational concerns for practitioners and supervisors regarding this new credential and its rollout.