Executive Summary

The West Virginia Massage Therapy Licensure Board was created by the Legislature in 1997 to protect the public. The Board consists of five members; three massage therapists, a lay member and either an osteopathic physician or a chiropractor. This is the agency's first Regulatory Board Review. It identifies two issues, briefly described below.

Issue Area 1: Licensure of the practice of massage therapy is not needed to protect public interest.
Regulation of professions is to be imposed only when necessary for public protection. The review has found no compelling evidence to support continued licensure of this profession because there is low risk of physical harm if the profession were unregulated. West Virginia has primarily received complaints alleging unlicensed activity. The one complaint the West Virginia board has received concerned sexual misconduct that occurred outside of the professional role. Although sexual misconduct is concerning, it is a matter to be taken to law enforcement agencies, and it does not relate to harm associated with inadequately trained massage therapists. The states of Kentucky, Georgia and California also determined that licensure of massage therapy was not necessary due to the low risk of physical harm. However, another less restrictive and cost-efficient form of regulation, such as certification, administered by another Board is recommended. The Pew Health Professions Commission instructed the Task Force on Health Care Workforce Regulation to identify and explore how regulation protects the public's health and propose new approaches to health care workforce regulation to better serve the public's interest. The Task Force recommended title protection (often referred to as certification) rather than licensure for professions such as massage therapy whose services are not especially risky to consumers. The Legislature should consider terminating the Massage Therapy Licensure Board.

Issue Area 2: The Board is not complying with applicable laws and rules.
The Legislative Auditor finds that the Massage Therapy Licensure Board has complied with the following Chapter 30 General Provisions: published address and telephone number, annual meeting, record of its' proceedings and attendance at the Auditor's orientation session.

Continuing education requirements are not being met. The Board is not establishing course content or approving courses. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, a private organization, is approving courses and course content. Further, despite only 45% of licensees haven taken the required number of professional ethics courses needed for license renewal, no licensee was denied renewal for not having taken the professional ethics course.