Massage Therapy Establishment Permit
The room filled quickly, over 80 attendees.

Maryland Massage Therapists and Practitioners have had a lot to say about the proposed Establishment License that has been proposed by the Maryland Board of Massage Therapy Examiners (BOMTE.)

At the start of the meeting there were at least 80 attendees with more arriving through the morning. A wonderful turn-out Maryland! The Therapists and Practitioners represented us well. There were many questions, a lot of statements of concern about all of this, and an overwhelming response that Human Trafficking is not something that will be solved by adding more burdens to responsible and hard working massage therapists.

The meeting opened with a presentation by the BOMTE, led by Board Members Gwenda Harrison, LMT - Vice Chair and Caitlin Thompson, LMT. Their emails are linked, as they also encouraged us to provide them with feedback. They were joined by Assistant Attorney General Grant Gerber and Consumer Member Margaret Hayes.

They gave a presentation outlining current laws, stats of disciplinary measures taken, and BOMTE's position with information about Human Trafficking from a study sponsored by the Federation of State Massage Boards.  On many occasions they asked the room for quiet and to hold questions until the end.

The survey that went out to us all was discussed, there were 397 respondents. While 38% were absolutely against and 24% were in favor of establishment licensure, what seemed to be most clear was that the survey was not well designed, was confusing, and many were not sure what was really being asked.

A few highlights of the proposal. They would have a sliding scale fee so that sole proprietors would pay less than a business with many employees. There would be some businesses that would be exempted including hospitals and long term care facilities, doctors offices, chiropractic, physical therapy, and athletic training facilities. They provided comparisons of other states that have establishment licensure and the fees, there was no information provided about the effectiveness of these laws in counteracting human trafficking.

Many people had an opportunity to speak. All were in opposition. There were so many great points made! We even had a Firefighter share his experience of reporting a human trafficking operation discovered during a routine inspection. He was also of the opinion that this is a law enforcement issue, not a massage therapy issue.

A variety of reasons were cited, here is a quick list:
  • The FSTMB study being used to support this is flawed, both AMTA and ABMP have provided a rebuttal to FSMTB detailing their concerns about the data and interpretation.
  • Human trafficking is a not ours to fix. It is a law enforcement issue, not a massage therapy issue.
  • No more fees - we are spending enough.
  • There is no evidence that such regulations would create the desired change.
  • Even a sliding scale doesn't feel fair as there is so much variation in income and work load between us.
  • The actual numbers of us who have been disciplined by the board for prostitution is less than 1/2 of 1%.
  • The vast majority of us, about 99% from looking at disciplinary numbers, are responsible, ethical therapists and practitioners.
Some made suggestions about what the BOMTE could focus on instead to raise up the profession of massage therapy and continue to protect the public (their mission.)
  • Raise the educational bar to continue to raise the standards for our profession
    • One example being nurses, who have raised their standards and have become one of the most highly trusted professions in the country
  • Bring other forms of bodywork under the board so that licensing would be required - such as Asian bodywork and Reflexology. So that clients would also be protected by licensure and supervision.
  • Educate law enforcement so that they know what a legitimate massage therapy practice looks like.
  • Support legislative and governmental efforts to get sufficient law enforcement officers to tackle the problem of human trafficking. One example given was that Anne Arundel County only has two officers dedicated to this effort.
We are sure you have your own thoughts as well.  Please take a moment and send an email to the BOMTE members above, as they have asked to hear from us.

In closing, what was most impressive was the level of connection, comradery, and support the group had for one another. Maryland Massage Therapists and Practitioners are an amazing bunch, and even if you were not able to attend the meeting, know that you were well represented.

From here we will wait to see how the BOMTE will respond. This proposal was a part of legislation that was presented during the 2017 season and it was withdrawn because of opposition from AMTA and others. We are grateful that they are including us all in the conversation this year and we trust that we can work together to find collaborative solutions that work for Maryland's Massage Professionals.

We encourage you to visit our Facebook page and the other Maryland Massage Facebook page for more discussion of this topic. The meeting was long, active, and contentious at times. We have tried to bring you the highlights and are sure there are other important points we have missed.

As we have more to share, we will get the word out. If you would like to be more involved, please be in touch, we would be glad to have your participation!

The Annual Convention runs next week from Thursday through Saturday, August 9th- 11th. It includes continuing education from well known experts, opportunities to make professional connections, socialize, see the latest and greatest massage products, and simply have a good time.

All the details are here!