PHILLIP CRUM: It is time, once again, for another edition of KATHLEEN MILLS’s “It’s Just Coffee.”
KATHLEEN MILLS: Good morning, Phillip.
PC: How are you, Kathleen?
KM: I’m great.
PC: Great. Tell me something about Lifetree Counseling that I do not know. C’mon, now. And while you’re thinking, I’m going to tell everybody that our guest today is Champ Kerr, one of Texas’s now-retired – and that’ll be fun. You’ve had long enough.
KM: I can’t think of a thing.
PC: You’ve got nothing?
KM: Okay, I know. You don’t know when our next symposium is.
PC: Why don’t you tell me.
KM: We’re going to launch our fall symposium for interns and college students only.
PC: Whoa. Interns and college students only.
KM: The things they need to know, early on.
PC: Tht’s a different target market for you, isn’t it?
KM: It is. I’ve had a lot of conversations with interns lately, and college students, and they learn a lot.
PC: That’ll be interesting. So your idea is to get Champ in there to scare the living fire out of them?
KM: Champ is part of it. He’s the gentle spirit. And Steve will, y’know, wrestle them to the ground and pin ‘em. I think interns and college students who are wanting to be mental health professionals, there’s a big need for this type of information that we just got through doing.
PC: So you’re going to attempt to access these students at the point before they begin and teach them not only what to expect in the free world – the real world, but how to run that business when they get started.
KM: I think Champ is a big piece of it, and that’s who we’re talking with today.
PC: I’m still PC, content marketing coach, and you can find me at contentmarketingcoach dot us. Why don’t you tell me what you know about Champ Kerr, and reduce that man. Let’s jump in.
KM: Champ was so willing to do our last symposium and we focused on a specific part of what I think mental health professionals need to know a little bit better, and that’s chapter 611. Champ, can you just give a rundown for our audience who you are, and what you used to do, and now you’re enjoying retirement.
CHAMP KERR: Sure. I was an investigator for several state agencies for a period of about 35 years. I finished up my last fifteen or sixteen with the Department of State Health Services.
KM: What was your role being an investigator? Who would you investigate?
CK: Primarily, it would be the individuals who held licenses that were issued by the agency that I worked for. It’s the Department of State Health Services. The professional licensing and certification division is an umbrella for 23 small – relatively small – licensing agencies. I’m including…
KM: Keep going. I’m sorry.
CK: Including four or five mental health agencies.
KM: Right. Your department that’s – I think there’s 21 licensing boards, is that right – that you were involved with?
CK: That’s close. It’s 21 to 23, depending on exactly what status it is at any moment.
KM: The thing that we’re going to focus is the mental health professional and that includes – correct me if I’m wrong on this, Champ, but it’s licensed professional counselors, the LPC license. It’s the licensed marriage and family therapy, the LMFT license; it’s also all the social worker credentials – is that correct?
CK: That’s correct.
KM: And the licensed chemical dependency counselor, the LCDC. Am I missing something?
CK: the only thing I can think of that you’d be missing would be the council on sex offender treatment.
KM: What’s the license – that’s a special license? Are a lot of people licensed with that?
CK: Actually, unless things have changed recently, if you hold one of the other mental health licenses, and you do a little specialized course work, you can become a licensed as a sex offender treatment specialist.
KM: Gotcha. Tell me a little bit about – I’m putting you on the spot, but we did a symposium a couple of weeks ago for licensed mental health professionals, and you and Steve Slough talked about the complaint process. If I can just get your impressions of that day, and what did you think was helpful for the people who attended?
CK: I enjoyed my participation in it. I think what was particularly helpful was the concentration on Chapter 611. I think that gets missed by a lot of mental health service providers.
KM: We just even focused probably on just two little subsections of Chapter 611, to be honest with you.
PC: What is 611?
KM: Champ, do you want to tell him what Chapter 611 is?
CK: It’s Chapter 611 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. It’s related to mental health records and confidentiality.
KM: Over the years of your investigation, could you give me a rough percentage of how the release of records and you being the investigator research with complaint process. What would be a good percentage of people violating that particular document because they just didn’t know.
CK: In terms of investigations, probably ten percent of all investigations are complaints related to some sort of confidentiality violation or release of records. Then that probably increases to roughly 25 percent if just the investigator stumbles across while conducting the investigation.
KM: So you’re saying that the chances are that you guys find more things besides the actual complaint.
KM: That’s a sticky wicket.
PC: I’m student. I’m an LPC-I and I want to know. What does this process look like? Not every single minute step, but the big picture from 30,000 feet. Somebody files a complaint on me. Where does the complaint go, what’s going to happen then? Who shows up when? What happens from up high?
CK: The complaint is received by the professional licensing division, and then it’s routed to the staff of the particular agency. The agency staff evaluates the complaint and if they deem it to be jurisdictional, they’ll then forward it with a list of possible violations to the investigations unit. The investigations unit then does a separate analysis of the complaint determines whether a visit is needed to the professional, or if things can be handled via phone or via mail. The prime investigator writes a letter, makes a telephone call, or knocks on the licensee’s door.
PC: How long is it typically between, if there’s an average, time frame between complaint filed and Champ in my door frame?
CK: That’s hard to say because of the increased volume of complaints that’s happened over the years. I would guess, at this point in time, there’s been an increase in the number of investigators, the time since I’ve left, so the time frames have probably lessened a bit, but it could be anywhere between six months and eighteen months before someone actually knocks on someone’s door.
PC: So I get to think about this complaint for six months at least before you show up.
CK: That would be correct.
KM: Once you show up and you do your investigation, what’s the time frame between that and the next piece, which would be the actual hearing before the board?
CK: Assuming my end report is written in a timely manner and lands on the executive director of the agency’s desk within three to four weeks after I’ve completed the legwork in the investigation, then the hearing would take place anywhere from – the initial hearing with the complaints committee would take place anywhere between a month and six months.
KM: They meet quarterly. Some of the boards meet monthly, right? Some of the boards meet quarterly, so you’ve got to factor in how often the board meets versus when your next in line to testify, is that correct?
CK: That’s correct. Social work, I think, generally meets once every four to six weeks and if they don’t have a full board meeting, they generally will have a complaint committee meeting in that time frame. LPCs generally, and again, it’s general because they’re not on a set schedule, but generally, it’s about every three months that they meet.
PC: Champ, let’s go back to the actual. When you show up at my office, we can skip to that. What happens when you show up at my office? What can I expect? Are you pulling out file cabinet drawers, turning over pillows, scaring small children and animals? What happens there?
CK: I try not to scare the animals. It’s generally up front process. I don’t try to frighten people. I don’t try to hurt people. I advise people of what the complaint is, what I’m looking for, if I need any documents, and I conduct an interview, see if they have anyone they want me to talk to, and I have a list of witnesses that I’ve prepared prior to discussing the things with the licensee.
PC: What if it’s not convenient for me when you show up?
CK: It needs to convenient for you.
KM: Yes, sir. It really does, doesn’t it. If you could give a tip for interns or licensees at this point, their protocol is to basically drop everything and it’s all about you at that point.
CK: Pretty much. At that point, if I’m at your office, I’m not going to make you tell your client to leave. I’ll wait until you’re done with your client and meet with you.
PC: Do all of the investigators follow that same rule of thumb as far as not interrupting a session in progress?
CK: I don’t know of anybody that would interrupt a session in progress. I have had people say, “Well, I’ve got six clients waiting prior to you,” and I’ll say, “They’re not in your office. You need to talk to me before you go any further.”
KM: It’s a little unnerving for the individual, but I would encourage everybody to be respectful of the process because that’s what part of the deal with being a licensed mental health professional is, to understand that the protocol is that I pay attention to you at this point.
CK: That’s correct.
KM: Steve – Steve Slough, your other retired friend, colleague, that kind of stuff – early on, we did a three-CEUs for ethics in a couple of different ways. One of the things that you mentioned a couple of weeks ago is what I want to have you talk about. There are three important words used in the rules and regulations for the licensee to really pay attention to, and I talk about the “shall”, “must” and “may”. A couple of weeks ago, you alluded to that in Chapter 611 when we were discussing something about release of records. Can you comment on the value of understanding protocol and focusing on those three words: the “shall”, the “must”, and the “may”.
CK: I’ll do my best. I do like to tell folks that I’m not an attorney.
KM: I know. I think the board has written rules specifically. I think a lot of licensees think that the ethics is a little grey and I beg to differ because the way the documents are written, it’s very specific, and they either use “shall” – “You shall” “The licensee shall”, or “the investigator must” or “the board may” – that kind of thing. I don’t think it’s as grey as licensed individuals think it is.
CK: I agree with you. People tend to think there’s a little bit more leeway in the rules than there actually is.
KM: At our upcoming fall symposium for interns and college students, just off the top of your head, and I’m putting you on the spot, what three things would you like college students to understand and interns to understand about their license?
CK: I think the important thing for them to realize that is that it’s a license. It grants you certain privileges, and the ability to pursue the livelihood in the manner that you wish, but at the same time, that license puts a burden on you to comply with state law and the rules and regulations that are promulgated by the particular agency or board that issues your license.
KM: So you want them to understand that it’s a privilege but yet, there is some due diligence involved every day with that privilege.
CK: That’s correct. Sometimes licensees don’t realize that the board’s main task is to protect the public. It’s not to protect the licensees.
KM: That’s another takeaway for the interns to understand, isn’t it?
PC: That’s good, because we’re out of time.
KM: We’re going to have to wait for next time.
PC: Champ, let me ask you. If somebody – an LPC-I or student who is interested in contacting you just to have a discussion with you, now that you’re retired and fishing full-time, is that possible, first of all.
CK: I don’t know of any reason why I wouldn’t. I probably give them a disclaimer. It’s been six months since I’ve been with the Department, so any changes in any rules and regulations, I may not be aware of; any changes in investigative procedure, I may not be aware of.
PC: We’ll get a number or some contact information from you after the fact, and if somebody wants to talk to you, they can get a hold of Kathleen and we’ll put you in touch.
CK: All right.
PC: Kathleen, how can we find you? If somebody wants to do some work with you.
KM: Our website is a great place to start. It’s lifetreecounseling dot com. It’s a big website with lots of stuff to see and listen to and articles. My number is 972-234-6634, and my extension is 104.
PC: Champ, it’s been a lot of fun talking with you this morning. We appreciate you getting up this early to speak with us and let’s do it again sometime.
CK: No problem.
PC: I’m still PC, content marketing coach, and you can find me at contentmarketingcoach dot us. Or pcrum at contactmarketingcoach dot us, or just call me if you’re bored and lonely at 214-264-6297. I appreciate it very much. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next week. On we go.