Published: Feb 10, 2022

ST. THOMASMembers of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Senator Milton E. Potter, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers voted in the affirmative on several measures, including a bill to update licensure requirements. Invited testifiers were inclusive of the officials from the Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs and the Board of Licensed Counselors and Examiners. All approved items will be forwarded to the full body for further consideration.

Bill No. 34-0190- An Act amending Title 27 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 4A relating to the practice of professional counseling to modify and update licensure requirements, and for other related purposes. Furthermore, the measure seeks to modify the eligibility requirements for application, approved supervisor designation, Associate Substance Abuse Counselor, Associate Marriage, Family Therapist, and Professional Counselor. Senator Potter noted that our community continues to live under constant trauma and the availability of much-needed services will start the healing process. Senator Marvin Blyden, the sponsor of the bill, stated that the measure will create a path for the licensure of more providers and approved supervisors in the territory while strengthening educational requirements and the regulation of the profession in the Virgin Islands.

In support of the measure, Nathalie Hodge, Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, indicated that professional counseling services that mitigate mental health and substance abuse are significant because clients will be assisted in reaching their optimal level of resolving negative patterns through prevention, rehabilitation, and improving their quality of life, especially during the pandemic. Similarly, Dr. Vincentia Paul-Constantin, Chairperson of the Virgin Islands Board of Licensed Counselors and Examiners, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a Nationally Board-Certified Counselor, mentioned that the proposed amendments will increase the ability for providers to meet the unique social, cultural, and linguistic needs of their clients, as well as increase cultural awareness—all of which are linked to more positive health outcomes.

Separately, policymakers voted and approved: Bill No. 34-0147- An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 10, chapter 1, sections 2 and 3 relating to discrimination on account of the race to include discrimination on the basis of hair texture or protective hairstyle; and amending title 17, chapter 3 relating to education to enact “The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act” or “The Virgin Islands Crown Act.” Sponsored by: Senator Alma Francis Heyliger.

However, senators voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 34-0149- An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 18, chapter 3, section 53 updating the record-keeping practices of the Board of Elections to ensure all official records relating to elections are accessible to the public through the use of technology and cloud-based services. Sponsored by: Senator Alma Francis Heyliger.

Senators attending today’s meeting: Milton E. Potter, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Genevieve R. Whitaker, Carla J. Joseph, Marvin A. Blyden, Alma Francis Heyliger, Steven D. Payne, Sr.                           ###

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