Update from Dr. Lucy Homans, Director of Professional Affairs

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Fall 2017: Volume 73, Number 2

By Lucy A. Homans, Ed.D.

I am writing this article a few days before Thanksgiving, a couple of weeks after WSPA’s Fall Convention. After a two-year hiatus, it was wonderful to return to that community of colleagues. I know we all have a broad choice of how & where we get our CE credits, but I really do find the questions, comments and interactions between presenters and psychologists interesting and thought provoking. I send a big thank you to the WSPA staff for organizing a great program.

During November, our state Legislature ramps up its activity. Remember that odd numbered years mark the first of a two-year legislative session cycle. So right now, legislative committees hold work sessions to consider any new legislation that should be introduced in the next – and “short” – session. Even numbered sessions are only 60 days long.  Also considered are bills that may have “died” in 2017 but might be re-introduced in 2018 for amendment and resolution.

Such is the case with the bill addressing the issue of Duty to Warn as re-defined by the “Volk” state Supreme Court decision of December 2016. In the 2017 session, the Legislature authorized the University of Washington Law School to complete an analysis of the Volk decision and implications for all providers who have a duty to warn/protect in this state. That analysis has been completed and a full report will be available to the public and sent to all Legislators forthwith.

The two significant questions addressed are: what duty is owed to the victim, and what duty is owed to the client who does not identify a victim?  The authors of the report identify three duties: duty to warn; duty to protect, and duty to control. RCW 71.05.120(3), the law most of us would refer to when presented with the requirement, is a Duty to Warn. Duty to Control is the requirement to control potentially harmful behavior, an example of which would be requesting an ITA.

The language in the Volk decision (and in the 1983 Peterson decision on which Volk is based) is a Duty to Protect anyone who may foreseeable be in danger. Additionally, the Volk decision holds that RCW 71.05.120(3) applies only to inpatient services while the Volk language applies to all outpatient services provided by any health provider. So – now we have two different kinds of duty to discharge under two different treatment locations.

In addition, the University of Washington law school researchers examined Duty to warn/protect/control laws in all 50 states. They have concluded that Washington State is an outlier in that our current (Volk) law is significantly broader than any other state’s law. In all but two states, for example, language similar to that found in RCW 71.05.120 – the 3-part test of an actual threat of imminent danger to an identified person is in statute.

Context is also important. In Washington State we – in my opinion – do a terrible job of funding adequate inpatient psychiatric beds, whether voluntary or ITA. The UW law school analysis bears this out. The Volk law may result in increased ITA assessments and hospitalizations requiring beds that do not exist.

All of this information will no doubt lead us back to legislation to change the duty to warn/protect laws in 2018. The 2018 session will start at the beginning of the second week of January. Stay tuned for details.

As most of you know, in the waning moments of the 2017 legislative session, WSPA was notified by a member of an incorrect interpretation of the new state law licensing applied behavior analysts by the Department of Health (DOH). The new ABA Advisory Board had concluded that only licensed Analysts may supervise assistant analysts or certified ABA technicians. Throughout the summer, WSPA worked to correct this misinterpretation. In early October, the DOH did offer an “interpretive statement” clearly stating that psychologists for whom ABA and supervision is within our scope of practice may supervise assistant analysts and certified techs. Additionally, in a work session held by the Senate Health Care Committee in early November, senior DOH staff clearly reiterated this decision and announced that the interpretive statement would be incorporated into the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) for Applied Behavior Analysts through rule making. WSPA will follow this effort closely.

Finally, I have been learning about a possible piece of legislation called “PsyPact.” PsyPact is 50 state effort supported by the Association for State & Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) the goal of which is to facilitate the interstate practice of psychology using telecommunications and/or temporary in-person practice. PsyPact is what is known as an interstate compact agreement. These compacts are quite common in interstate commerce, transportation and the like, and are becoming more common in health care delivery. The intent is to reach underserved populations, standardize the practice of psychology across state lines and allow temporary in-person and telepsychology without having to get multiple state licenses. For the compact to move forward seven states must pass the enabling legislation and thus far two states, Utah and Arizona, have done so.

To date, neither WSPA nor our Examining Board of Psychology (EBOP) has formally supported PsyPact enabling legislation in Washington State. We are learning all we can about the process right now and will keep members informed going forward. For more information, please go to  www.psypact.org.

As always, if you have any questions about this article, or anything else, email me at lucy.homans@gmail.com. Thank you – and I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving and now, Happy Holidays!


Fall 2017, Volume 73, Issue 2.