Arkansas Bill Would Allow Massage Therapy Training at Spas

The Arkansas House of Representatives introduced House Bill 1440 (HB 1440) in February. This bill appears to allow online education for an entire massage therapy training program and in-person education by a master massage therapist or instructor at a spa or massage clinic.

Over the course of the pandemic, states across the country allowed online instruction in lieu of in-person requirements. States revised rules to allow a certain percentage of education to be online, while still requiring hands-on training to be completed when possible. In Arkansas, for example, massage therapists were permitted to complete continuing education credits online.

The problem with HB 1440 is that it provides for an entire massage therapy program to be offered online without time limitations relating to an emergency, such as the pandemic.

ABMP is opposing HB 1440 as it is written and is providing suggested amendments. We believe online education in a pandemic can be helpful—with limitations. The portion of hands-on training a school provides should be performed at a school—not a spa or clinic. The current Arkansas Massage Practice Act states education should be performed by a master massage therapist in a post-secondary massage therapy school that has been approved by the state, and that to obtain a massage therapy license, one must:

Present a high school diploma, high school equivalency diploma approved by the Adult Education Section, or college transcript and credentials issued by a massage therapy school accepted by the department or a like institution with no less than five hundred (500) hours of in-classroom instruction. Ark. Code. Ann. §17-86-303(a)(4). (emphasis added)

We support amending HB 1440 to allow distance education for courses that can be taken online, such as anatomy and physiology, pathology, contraindications, business, and ethics. The 225 hours of “technique” training should be administered at a massage therapy school accepted by the department, not at a spa or clinic.

ABMP does support allowing spas or clinics to serve as training institutions. In the event it is considered, ABMP seeks to stipulate that if training is offered at a spa or clinic, there should be no work requirement that could essentially be considered indentured servitude to the spa or clinic.

We encourage you to contact the sponsors of the bill, Representative Pilkington and Senator Hester, to let them know your thoughts about HB 1440. We encourage you to use this advocacy email template courtesy of ABMP to voice your opinion. Simply fill out the email template with the appropriate information and send it to the sponsors. The bill passed the House and is now on its way to the Senate. We presume that once it reaches the Senate floor it will be assigned to the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. You can also contact the members of this committee to express your opinion:

Senator Cecile Bledsoe
Senator Scott Flippo
Senator Breanne Davis
Senator Ben Gilmore
Senator Kim Hammer  
Senator Bart Hester  
Senator Dan Sullivan  
Senator David Wallace

If you have questions or concerns, email us at gr@abmp.com.

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