By Carol Trust, LICSW, Executive Director, NASW-MA Chapter
One of the stimulating and interesting parts of my job (there are many) is consulting with members who have questions about starting and maintaining a private practice, especially the clinical, legal and administrative issues related to clinical practice and managed care. Because you are an NASW member you are entitled to unlimited consultation on all the above issues. I handle most of these questions, however other professional staff are also available to respond to members’ questions in these areas. To give you an idea of the scope of questions that get asked and answered, here are some examples:
- How long do I have to keep clinical records? (Private practice and agency?)
- I am starting a private practice, what do I do?
- I was subpoenaed to court or to a lawyer’s office. Do I have to go?
- I haven’t received payment for mental health services provided. What do I do?
- How do we safeguard the confidentiality of our records when they are transported in a car or some other means of transportation?
- Am I responsible for reporting a past crime that my client reported to me?
- The father of a child I am seeing wants to see the child’s records. Do I have to show him?
- What are the pros and cons of using a collection agency?
- How do I get on a managed care panel?
- How do I become a Medicare provider?
I love to get these questions. Why? I often know the answers and can be immediately helpful. If I do not, I then research the issue and am able to provide the answer, as well as add this information to my storehouse of facts and wisdom. The questions often are the basis for a major advocacy action on NASW’s part, or an article for FOCUS, or a fact sheet that is then available to the whole membership before they even face the same dilemma as the original caller.
In terms of clinical consultation, the Chapter has been very fortunate to enlist the help of a senior social worker with many years in the field. Ms. Tikvah Portnoi, former head of the children’s unit at McLean Hospital and senior social worker at the Beth Israel Hospital for many years, is available to talk with members who are dealing with complex clinical issues that may also involve administrative and legal implications. Between the NASW staff and Tikvah, members’ questions get immediate attention. If we feel that a lawyer needs to be brought in, we will make that recommendation.
In addition, the Chairs of several NASW committees are available to talk with members around practice issues related to the subject of their committees. Amy Eden, Chair of the Private Practice Committee, is available to talk with members about all aspects of Private Practice. She often brings the caller’s questions to the monthly Private Practice committee meeting, where she can garner the thinking of a larger group to help respond to a question. Amy never stops until she gets the answer. Donald Markum, Chair of the HMO/Managed Care Committee fields many questions from members who are dealing with managed care dilemmas.
The point of all this consultation is to make sure that our members are well informed about practice, legal and administrative standards. We are committed to helping support NASW members so that they can practice with the highest standards.
So, if you have not made a call to the Chapter office for help, advice, or just another opinion, we are waiting. We are here to serve you.
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