Bruce Emmerling via Wikimedia Commons

The Virginia Board of Social Work has changed licensing regulations, making it easier for social workers licensed in other states to get licensed in Virginia.

There is a critical shortage in Virginia of mental health professionals, and this is a significant step by the Board of Social Work to help address this shortage,” Governor Glenn Youngkin said in a Wednesday press release. “A priority of my administration is to reduce state regulations and regulatory barriers, and this action shows how regulations can be streamlined to remove barriers to practice with the goal of bringing more mental health professionals to the Commonwealth.”

People from other states licensed as clinical social workers, master’s social workers, and baccalaureate social workers can now get a license in Virginia by proving that they hold a license at the same level in good standing in another state. The regulation changes also make it easier to get re-licensed. Youngkin’s release notes that Virginia ranks 39th among states for mental health care access, according to a report from the Virginia Health Care Foundation.

“I am very pleased that the Board of Social Work has taken this step. The Board is helping address the critical need for mental health professionals, while maintaining the accountability that comes from requiring a state license,” Board of Social Work Executive Director Jaime Hoyle said in the release.

National Association of Social Workers Virginia Executive Director Debra Riggs told The Virginia Star that the change has been a long time coming.

“We know that we have a major workforce crisis in behavioral health, and we are the largest provider of behavioral health professionals in the state and in the nation. And this will be another way to bring in social workers from other jurisdictions and states to work in the Commonwealth,” Riggs said.

“There were a lot of obstacles in the past up until this point, where if you had a license in another jurisdiction, you had to meet several requirements here in Virginia in order to get your license to practice social work in the Commonwealth,” she said.

Riggs listed future steps she wants from Youngkin’s administration and the general assembly, including recognition that social work is the largest behavioral health profession, addressing the workplace environment, and improved salaries for social workers.

“Social workers who work so hard all the time, their salaries are historically low and should be recognized,” she said.

She also called for a focus on social worker retention and preventing burnout instead of just improving recruitment, and she called for more education opportunities to train social workers.

“We would love to see the governor and our legislature work with us in the future to build funds to meet the needs, get more schools of social work. We currently have 13 bachelor level [schools] but we do need more graduate-level social work schools in Virginia, as the master’s degree is really the terminal degree,” Riggs said.


Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.