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Mental Health

Alabama Social Workers Will Now be Able to Diagnose

— July 12, 2023

New law will finally allow clinical social workers to diagnose patients.

The laws of each individual state across the country play an important role in how people receive the mental health treatment they need. In Alabama, an existing law limiting the role social workers can play in the mental health crisis has made it more difficult to get the right help to the people who need it the most. Namely, social workers have not been able to diagnose patients. Fortunately, a recent change to the laws in this state will be going into effect soon and should prove to be a big boost to the system as a whole. 

For something that has the potential to make a significant impact on the mental health of the people of the state of Alabama, the change in question is actually quite simple. Currently, those who are licensed as independent clinical social workers are not allowed to diagnose people with mental health disorders. That can prove to be a problem because without the ability to diagnose, some individuals can’t get treatment immediately. They must wait to be diagnosed by a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist. 

Alabama Social Workers Will Now be Able to Diagnose
Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

Adding that layer into the network of care complicated the process and meant that fewer people were diagnosed and able to be treated. The change is coming in the form of House Bill 56, which will grant licensed independent clinical social workers to make the diagnosis that they see fit. That removes a layer of red tape and brings people closer to the care they need. Alabama was the only state in the nation that had this restriction in place, but it is soon to expire. The expectation is that the bill will officially become law in September of this year. 

One of the biggest problems with the limited way in which mental health disorders could be diagnosed in Alabama was the lack of equity in the system. Individuals who live in or near a big city may not have as much trouble getting to see a physician with the ability to offer that diagnosis, but people in rural areas were not served as readily. Therefore, those in less populated areas were less likely to get a diagnosis, and by extension, the care they need. After the change becomes official, there will hopefully be many more people who can get a proper diagnosis and access to the right help based on their situation. 

This changing. and much-need, new law in Alabama serves as a good case study on how things that limit access to healthcare should never just be accepted for what they are without some pushback. Despite this law having been in place for many years, it was no longer playing a positive role for the people in the state and needed to be changed. This can serve as motivation for people across the country who are working to make things better in their communities. Change is possible, and it often starts at the ground level before working its way up to the people with the power to enact new rules. 


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