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February 8, 2007

House Executive Departments and Administration Committee

Re:  H.B. 170 regarding composition of occupational and professional licensing boards, providing that all NH State boards and commissions be comprised of equal or greater numbers of public members as licensed professionals or tradespeople

 

Memorandum:  Attorney David J. Braiterman, Public Member, NH Board of                                         Mental Health Practice

H.B. 170 as introduced provides that all NH State boards and commissions be comprised of equal or greater numbers of public members as licensed professionals or tradespeople. 

I appear before your Committee today as one of three public members of the NH Board of Mental Health Practice.  The board has 8 members, including 3 public members and 5 professionals.  The 5 professionals are one from each of the five licensed professional practices regulated by the board, which are:

            Licensed Clinical Social Workers

            Psychologists

            Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors

            Pastoral Psychotherapists

            Marriage and Family Therapists

The board was increased from 2 to 3 public members in 2006.

I do not profess to speak on behalf of the board because the board has not had opportunity as a group to discuss the merits of this bill.  I speak solely as an individual.  My comments reflect my experience with the Board of Mental Health Practice, and not generally across the spectrum of all occupational and professional licensing boards in New Hampshire.

Activities and deliberations of the Board of Mental Health Practice are a combined effort of both the public and the professional members of the board.  Both accord appropriate respect and consideration of the viewpoints of the other.  Mixed opinions where they exist among board members do not reflect partisan or polarized viewpoints of public members as opposed to professional members. Rather, they reflect individual perspectives that clearly reflect the independent opinions of each member.

Professional members of the board bring specialized training and experience vitally important to inform the viewpoints of our public members in ways that public members could not without them.  Having professional members in a majority has not resulted in parochial or protective actions by the board at the expense of the broader public interest.

The Board of Mental Health Practice unanimously elected as its chair for 2007 its senior public member, Attorney Julie Introcaso.  There is no discrimination or favoritism of public vs. professional board members on our board.

The Board of Mental Health Practice operates from office space on Donovan Street in Concord.  Board meetings are held in a small conference room adjacent to the board office in that building.  The conference room is equipped for meetings of about six board members comfortably, which we squeeze into with meetings of eight at present.  Any kind of public hearing currently has to be held at the Board of Pharmacy building on Regional Drive across town, meaning that hearings are held away from office records and facilities which burdens staff and creates logistical complexities.  Expanding the board to 10 members would require all meetings to be held elsewhere than at the Board’s office and complicate further the work of the board.  The imperative for the board to have new office space proximate to adequate board meeting space would be increased from that existing today.

Board members are paid a per diem of $100 plus mileage for board activities.  Increasing the board to 10 members will increase those costs and implicate budgetary considerations in the future.

A board of 10 members would be unnecessarily large for considerations.

My thanks for your attention to my comments.

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