Did you know that occupational therapists could serve as qualified mental health professionals (QMHP) in NC?

Qualified Providers for Mental Health in North Carolina must meet one of the following criteria:

a)     Hold a license, provisional license, certificate, registration or permit issued by the governing board regulating a human service profession; or

b)     Graduate of a college or university with a Masters degree in a human service field and has one year of full-time, post-graduate degree accumulated MH/DD/SAS experience with the population served; or

c)     Graduate of a college or university with a Bachelor's degree in a human service field and has two years of full-time, post-graduate degree accumulated MH/DD/SAS experience with the population served; or

d)     Graduate of a college or university with a Bachelor's degree in a field other than human service and has four years of full-time, post-graduate degree accumulated MH/DD/SAS experience with the population served.

Though OT is a licensed profession and meets the educational criteria, there has been confusion among mental health organizations and legislators regarding whether OT would qualify as a ‘human service field’. According to a document by the Office of Personnel (2003, http://www.alliancebhc.org/wp-content/uploads/documents_forms/additional_bulletins/Evaluating_Human_Services_Degrees.pdf), occupational therapy falls under the related human service degree specifically mentioned in Part F. These degrees are considered human services but require review of a transcript to ensure the degree program offered 25 hours of human services related coursework. The underlying factor in determining the applicability of coursework is whether it is focused on the "helping relationship", understanding and assisting clients/families/groups to meet a range of human needs, understanding and dealing with the needs of special populations, counseling and therapy, human/child development, relationships, behaviors, assessment and evaluation, rehabilitation, etc.

What does this mean for occupational therapy and community-based mental health? Individuals in need of occupational therapy are not receiving needed services for social participation and community living. Occupational therapists are not involved in community mental health services because of a lack of clarity about whether occupational therapy is considered a “human services professional” in North Carolina.  This document has outlined the ways that occupational therapists do in fact meet criteria as a Qualified Provider for mental health services. The solution is to distribute documentation to agencies in the state providing mental health services that clarifies that occupational therapists can serve as Qualified Providers. A transcript review must show they meet criteria for human services degree, or an individual occupational therapist can demonstrate the criteria d requirement of four years of practice in the area.  When applying for jobs in community mental health, it is helpful for occupational therapists to print and bring this document if clarification is needed. Until occupational therapy becomes more prominent in community mental health, occupational therapists need to have ready access, and present materials, supporting our inclusion in community mental health practice.