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Florida introduces master's-level professional credential

October 23, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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As Florida progresses toward a managed care-driven system for publicly supported behavioral health services, the state's credentialing authority for addiction professionals has established a new certification category for the master's-level professionals likely to be highly sought in the evolving system.

As of the beginning of this month, certified addiction professionals in Florida who hold a master's degree in a related field have become eligible to receive the state's new master's-level addiction professional credential known by the acronym MCAP. Neal McGarry, president and CEO of the Florida Certification Board, says the credentialing authority anticipates that close to half of the state's approximately 4,300 CAPs will pursue the MCAP certification.

McGarry says the establishment of the new credential largely reflects direction already taken by the state Medicaid agency, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which more than a year ago made the determination that certified addiction professionals with a master's degree in a related field can be reimbursed directly for services under Medicaid.

“Because AHCA had already implemented its policy, we wanted to make sure we didn't interrupt anybody's privileging,” says McGarry. The certification board therefore mirrored its requirements for the MCAP to language in the state's handbook outlining Medicaid coverage requirements, he says.

The MCAP, which officially became available Oct. 1, may be sought by certified addiction professionals who hold a master's degree in counseling, social work, psychology, rehabilitation, special education, health education, or a related human-services field. The certification authority's three-year work experience requirement actually exceeds state Medicaid agency requirements.

As the state moves toward a capitated system for public-sector behavioral health services, McGarry says the influence of nationally prominent managed care entities is expected to grow and demand for certified master's-level clinicians in turn is likely to intensify.

“Once managed care makes inroads, some of the [health] plans will start impacting who they'd like to see and how they'd like services reimbursed,” he says. He adds, however, that bachelor's-level CAPs should maintain their roles in being able to sign off on treatment plans and to act as qualified supervisors in their treatment organizations, for example.

McGarry says that as demand for credentials with advanced degrees grows, the field at large would benefit from research that would demonstrate the patient benefits derived from working with certified clinical professionals. Such documented evidence is currently lacking, he says.