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Natural Awakenings Boston

Restrictive Licensing Bill for All Bodyworkers Passes Senate: Action Alert

SB2599 (now SB2621) passed the Massachusetts Senate unanimously (39-0) as an emergency measure. The bill has since gone to the house for consideration. Called “An Act to regulate bodywork therapy” by its author, this legislation is intended to prevent human trafficking and sexual exploitation in bodyworks establishments. What the bill actually accomplishes is to completely redefine the word “bodywork” to include every unlicensed holistic modality conceivable, including reiki, the Trager approach, the Feldenkrais method, qigong, yoga, Pilates, Rolf structural integration and many others.

If a practitioner uses touch, words or directed movement, they would be considered a bodyworker for purposes of Massachusetts statute and would have to close their doors or spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in school to learn massage, even if their expertise has nothing to do with it.

The bill would affect Clark Reddick, a stress relief and recovery specialist at The Boston Alphabiotic Center for Health and Wellness. He says, “Practitioners may very well be forced to go to a bodywork school that will know nothing about the nuances of their modality, and ultimately be trained on something entirely unrelated to what they are doing and have been previously trained on.”

Another core concern is that these very different practitioners are all being lumped into the category of “bodyworkers”, which most of them do not identify with. “I don’t think there are any reiki practitioners that would use that word,” says Elise Brenner, Ph.D., a reiki practitioner and teacher. “We do not manipulate hard or soft tissue; we really do not need to touch the body at all. The most fundamental issue is that we are going to be defined by others in a misleading and inaccurate way.”

All of this was decided in an emergency session with no input from those holistic care providers or their tens of thousands of clients. The effect of this bill will be to eliminate individual’s freedom of choice in the most precious and personal areas—the selection of health care. People will have fewer choices of not only practitioners to choose from, but modalities of care to access. Those remaining choices will cost more—possibly much more thanks to this unnecessary regulation.

Thousands that now provide for their families working in the holistic healthcare field will be affected. Many will be forced out of business, adversely impacting their household and children. It is a foregone conclusion that with so many businesses shuttering, tax revenue from the holistic healthcare industry will drop precipitously while new unemployment claims will rise.

There is a better approach to regulating unlicensed natural health practitioners, found in 2015-2016 SB 1136/HB 2033, the MA bill providing for consumer access to and disclosure of complementary and alternative health services. SB 1136/HB 2033 is a common sense solution that provides practitioner guidelines and ensures that consumers have safe access to all unlicensed complementary and alternative health care practitioners including all types of bodyworkers.

If you care about freedom of choice in health care, please take the following actions immediately:

• Go to HFAMA.org and make a small donation.

• Like and follow Facebook.com/hfama and share with all your Facebook friends and ask them to follow and share.

• Find your state representative at MALegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator.

• Email your representative, but also call them and tell them as one of their constituents that you are ardently opposed and why.

• Be ready to appear at the state house when notified.