Massage Therapy Title Act, SB731 Signed Into California Law

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The California chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association believes the passing of this Title Act will improve conditions for more than 30,000 practicing massage therapists and the estimated 9 million consumers of massage therapy in California. The bill calls for the formation of a Massage Therapy Organization (MTO) that will over-see a state-wide certification of massage therapists. The MTO will allow law enforcement to focus on criminals, while the MTO focuses on massage therapists.

We truly believe the formation of the MTO will create a more appropriate, centralized, and efficient regulating system for massage therapists

Senate Bill 731, will bring California in line with 39 states plus Washington D.C. who have addressed the massage profession on a statewide basis. The bill was authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza. The American Massage Therapy Association - California Chapter (AMTA-CA) sponsored this bill and has been instrumental in crafting the bill and in its progress through the legislative system.

This title act will define what titles massage therapists may use, and give the public an indication of what a therapist's education level is based on their title. Massage Therapy is the largest health care profession in this state without consistent statewide regulation. The profession is now controlled by numerous county and city laws and in some cities there are no permitting or requirements at all. SB 731 will change that and provide an option for uniform certification of massage therapists in California. The AMTA-CA chapter sees the passing of this bill as a step towards giving the massage profession the respect it has earned through education, research and history.

SB 731 will provide for statewide standards for the massage profession by creating a private, non-profit organization called the Massage Therapy Organization (MTO). This organization will ensure any massage practitioner using the title "certified" meets specified, uniform standards. SB 731 will require massage therapists who use the title "certified" to complete a specific amount of training from approved schools and undergo background checks.

The MTO will be a self-funded oversight organization which will approve applications and oversee complaints and disciplinary actions. Participation in the MTO certification process is currently voluntary.

SB 731 will protect consumers by allowing them to easily identify legitimately certified massage therapists - just as they do other professions such as chiropractors, cosmetologists and optometrists. For massage therapists, one of the biggest advantages of the new certification will be the portability of the certification. Right now massage therapists across California have to apply for a license in each city in which they work.

"With all of the diverse requirements out there, it can be very difficult and expensive for massage therapists to gain the necessary permits," says Beverly May, co-chair of government relations for the AMTA-CA, massage therapist and facility owner in the Bay area. "We're looking for one-stop shopping--one piece of paper that allows you to practice anywhere in California without getting additional permits."

As it stands now, in some cities massage is regulated by the vice department and in others it is under the health department. Local governments that regulate massage therapy under their vice laws typically insert ordinances that address illicit activities The MTO will apply only to massage therapists/massage therapy, the same as other regulating boards apply to their own professions. "We truly believe the formation of the MTO will create a more appropriate, centralized, and efficient regulating system for massage therapists," says Terri Mongait, the AMTA-CA Chapter President and practicing equine massage therapist in the L.A. area.

The MTO certification will pre-empt any city's massage licensing and, at the same time, be an additional tool for local law enforcement to utilize in dealing with illicit activities. "We hope the MTO can be a resource and additional arm of enforcement to local governments to ensure legitimate massage therapy professionals are established in communities throughout California," says Melissa Colburn, AMTA-CA Government Relations Committee Member and practicing massage therapist in the Sacramento area.

Once it goes into affect, therapists will apply to the California Massage Therapy Organization, a committee which will include massage industry representatives, among others. There will be two tiers of certification: #1, "Massage Practitioner" requiring 250 hours from an approved school and #2, "Massage Therapist" requiring 500 hours of education from an approved school along with passing a recognized exam. There will be a grandfathering period for those who don't have formal education. After the first 5 years, new certificants will have to have the higher educational standard. The intention of the MTO is to accept applications and begin issuing certificates in September of 2009.

Even with the certification in place, individual massage therapists will still be required to get a business license and comply with city zoning. Therapists who don't want the certification may continue to participate in local regulating systems.

Before this bill passed, there were many therapists who took the time to write to Governor Schwarzenegger expressing their desire to have him sign the bill. One example is Hollis Radin, who has been practicing massage since 1993. Hollis says "Massage therapists like me welcome this regulation. I currently work as a hospital-based massage therapist at Stanford University and Lucille Packard Hospitals. I have worked as an independent massage therapist in Portola Valley, Los Altos and Palo Alto, with extremely different regulations: A simple business license in Portola Valley, an expensive massage license with an exam, a background check and three month wait in Los Altos; and a virtual prohibition on private massage offices in Palo Alto."

Future updates about the implementation of the MTO will be posted at http://www.amta-ca.org under state legislation.
To view SB731 in its entirety log onto: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov and click on Senate Bills, then click on SB731.

For further information contact: AMTA-CA Government Relations Representatives: govrelations@amta-ca.org or go to http://www.amta-ca.org

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