The Advocate Magazine 2022 Issue 3 | Page 9

Counseling Clinical Update Tips continued from page 810

Florida Sen . Sam Killebrew managed to get a mental health professional to write an ESA letter for his stuffed baboon , Ophelia . ( By “ stuffed ,” I mean that this baboon is literally a dead baboon , prepped by a taxidermist .)
I talked with him about this letter a few years ago , and he told me that the process was very quick and easy — too quick and easy . All he had to do was complete a brief online questionnaire in which he attested that “ I get anxious sometimes ” ( as all humans do ), and suddenly he possessed a document attesting that he had a disability and that he needed his ESA in order to function . Sen . Killebrew then made it his mission to write legislation aimed at preventing improper practices involving ESA letters .
In the 2022 book “ Avoiding Faux Paws & Pitfalls With Emotional Support Animals ,” author and Licensed Professional Counselor Bill E . Owenby , LPC-S , ACS , DCMHS , described a California case ( BBSs v . Black , 2019 ) in which California ’ s licensure board concluded that a licensed mental health professional erred by writing an ESA letter based on an online evaluation and a payment . No clinical interview was conducted , and “ what
the exact assessment is was not determined .” Legislatures in California then passed a new law , effective in January 2022 , that required counselors to have a professional relationship for at least 30 days with a client and to conduct a thorough evaluation prior to writing an ESA letter .
In May 2022 , Florida ’ s composite licensure board for mental health professionals disciplined two mental health professionals ( case numbers 2018-28005 and 2018-22106 ) for failure to adhere to professional standards by writing ESA letters without sufficient assessment . The board also created a new administrative rule [ Rule 64B4-5.001 ( 1 )( pp )], which permits the board to discipline mental health professionals for “ providing information , including written documentation , indicating that a person has a disability or supporting a person ’ s need for an emotional support animal without personal knowledge of the person ’ s disability or disability-related need .”
Ohio ’ s composite licensure board for mental health professionals published a document in September 2019 offering guidance to its licensees with respect to ESA letters , bit . ly / 3TeMuHP .
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The Advocate Magazine 2022 , Issue # 3 American Mental Health Counselors Association ( AMHCA ) www . amhca . org 99