Honolulu, Hawaii

, 2002

RE: S.B. No. 2498

S.D. 1



Honorable Robert Bunda

President of the Senate

Twenty-First State Legislature

Regular Session of 2002

State of Hawaii


Your Committee on Health and Human Services, to which was referred S.B. No. 2498 entitled:


begs leave to report as follows:

The purpose of this measure is to establish a three tier licensing system for social workers.

Testimony in support of this measure was received from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Clinical Social Work Society of Hawaii, and thirty-two private citizens. Testimony in opposition was received from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). The Department of Health deferred to the DCCA and provided comments.

This measure also:

(1) Adds to the definition of the practice of social work: mediation services, advocacy services, and education of individuals, groups, couples, and families; casework intervention, administration and development of social service programs; research into social work programs, social systems, and social policies; psychological assessment, diagnostic impressions, treatment, prevention of psychosocial dysfunction, disability, or impairment; and evaluation of practice effectiveness;

(2) Clarifies the usage of "social worker" and the use of "licensed";

(3) Adds licensing exemptions;

(4) Clarifies licensing qualifications and examination requirements for each of the three tiers;

(5) Clarifies prohibited practices relating to licensure;

(6) Deletes the repeal date of Act 202, Session Laws of Hawaii (SLH) 1988, relating to enactment of chapter 431M, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), relating to mental and alcohol and drug abuse treatment insurance benefits; and

(7) Deletes the repeal and reenctment of certain sections of Act 243, SLH 2000, relating to insurance coverages.

Your Committee finds that the practice of social work is a professional practice affecting the public health, safety, and welfare of the people of Hawaii and it is in the best interest of the public that this profession be regulated, and that only qualified persons be permitted to engage in the practice of social work.

Establishing a three tier system of licensure for social workers recognizes the fact that social workers have various degrees of education, training, and competency. It is in the public interest in licensing to recognize these variances, to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.

According to testimony of the NASW, thirty-seven other states have enacted laws to regulate bachelor degree social workers. The three tier system under this measure includes bachelor degree holders.

Your Committee is aware of the report of the Legislative Reference Bureau, "Social Work in Hawaii: An Examination of Some Regulatory Issues", 2000, that concluded that there is little evidence that increasing the number of Hawaii's social worker licensing levels will better protect the public from receiving treatment at the hands of less competent social workers (p. 103). The LRB report also referred to a 1986 Auditor's sunrise study rejecting regulation of even a single tier of clinical social workers. Both reports rested on the argument that there is no documentation and no actual evidence of harm occurring to consumers. However, your Committee believes that the one-on-one nature of social worker practice, particularly clinical counseling, is difficult to evaluate and assess in terms of harm to the patient or client. The testimony of the DOH noted the importance of quality social work services and the fact that social workers represent the largest, most accessible and least costly group of mental health providers. In passing this measure, your Committee prefers to act out of an overabundance of caution and prevention in the interests of safeguarding the public.

Your Committee has amended this measure on the recommendation of the DOH by:

(1) Deleting reference to "addiction services" in the definition of practice of social work; and

(2) Deleting the amendments to Act 202, SLH 2001, and Act 243, SLH 2000.

Your Committee has also amended this measure by:

(1) Extending the repeal date of Act 229, SLH 2001, which made certain revisions to chapter 467E, HRS, relating to regulation of social workers, from January 1, 2003, to June 30, 2003; and

(2) Making technical changes for style and clarity.

As affirmed by the record of votes of the members of your Committee on Health and Human Services that is attached to this report, your Committee is in accord with the intent and purpose of S.B. No. 2498, as amended herein, and recommends that it pass Second Reading in the form attached hereto as S.B. No. 2498, S.D. 1, and be referred to the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Housing.


Respectfully submitted on behalf of the members of the Committee on Health and Human Services,