Arkansas Proposes New Massage Therapy Rules

On April 22, 2022, the Arkansas Register (p. 39) announced proposed amendments to the Rules for Massage Therapy that address definitions, continuing education, policies and procedures, apprenticeships, and massage therapy schools. The rules have been drafted based on House Bill 1875, which was signed into law and became effective January 1, 2022. ABMP has summarized the proposed rule changes for you below.

If you would like to submit written comments to the Arkansas State Board of Health (Board) in support of, or in opposition to, the proposed rules, send your comments to laura.shue@arkansas.gov before May 23, 2022. You can use ABMP’s advocacy template as a guide to help write your commentary. There will also be a public meeting on May 23, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. CDT at the following address:

Public Meeting
Freeway Medical Building
Board Room #906
5800 West 10th Street
Little Rock, AR 72204

Definitions
The proposed rules add the following terms to the definitions section:

Apprenticeship—a program that meets federal guidelines and has been approved by the United States Office of Apprenticeship for meeting the requirements of an apprenticeship.

Automatic licensure—granting an individual licensure who has not met occupational licensure requirements.

Owner—an individual who is a sole proprietor, member, shareholder, or holder of an ownership interest, directly or indirectly, in a partnership, association, joint venture, corporation, limited liability company, or trust that owns or controls a massage therapy school or postsecondary massage therapy school.

Continuing education
The proposed rules introduce an amendment to continuing education, applicable during a governor-declared statewide state of emergency. During such an event, the provision that no more than six of the required 18 continuing education hours may be home study or online courses can be suspended temporarily. In essence, this allows for all continuing education to be completed online.

Policies and procedures
The proposed rules add two new provisions to the policies and procedures section. The first applies to eligible applicants who may receive a fee waiver for their initial license. Eligible applicants must:

  • Be receiving assistance through the Medicaid Program; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program; or the Lifeline Assistance Program
  • Have been approved for unemployment within the last 12 months
  • Have an income that does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines

Applicants must provide documentation showing their receipt of benefits—fraudulent documentation is grounds for denial or license revocation.

The second proposed addition to the policies and procedures section applies to massage therapists who seek licensure through apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is a new pathway to licensure and new policies have been developed. An applicant seeking licensure through an apprenticeship model must:

  • Provide proof of program completion with official documentation from the apprenticeship program, such as a certificate, diploma, or a similar credential.
  • Provide proof that they have met all the other non-educational requirements.

Massage therapy schools and postsecondary massage therapy schools
The proposed rules suggest an $850 nonrefundable registration fee for any person, firm, or corporation seeking to open a school of massage therapy. The proposed rules also address purchasing existing massage therapy schools and massage therapy school relocation.

Purchase of an existing massage therapy school
Any person, firm, or corporation seeking to purchase an existing school of massage therapy must submit an application along with all required documents at least 30 days before purchase to receive approval from the Department. Applications must be filed to reflect the change of ownership and include:

  1. The $100 nonrefundable registration fee
  2. Valid background checks for each new owner
  3. A copy of the legal change of ownership document
  4. A copy of each new owner’s government-issued photo ID
  5. A signed and notarized statement from each owner selling their interest in the school transferring the school’s license to the new owner(s)
  6. A statement by the new owner(s) reflecting any changes that will be made, such as:
    • The location of the school, type of structure, or floor plan
    • The list of equipment used for instructional purposes
    • The curriculum, including the name and/or addition of textbooks, and any other material that will be used for instructional purposes
    • The list of instructors and their qualifications
    • Any forms to be used in the school, such as contracts, sign-in sheets, attendance records, transcripts, and guest instructor logs
    • The school’s handbook, including refund and disciplinary policies

After completing the application, the school will be subject to an inspection before the ownership transfer can be approved. The inspection will result in approval, suggestions for adjustments/recommendations, or corrections. Schools that do not pass the first inspection will be reinspected within 30 days of notifying the school of corrections.

Relocation of a massage therapy school or postsecondary massage therapy school
Any person, firm, or corporation seeking to relocate a massage therapy school must submit an application with required forms to receive preapproval. Applications must include:

  1. The nonrefundable $425 registration fee
  2. A completed application available at www.healthyarkansas.com
  3. A description of the school location, type of structure, and detailed floor plan
  4. A list of proposed equipment used for instructional purposes
  5. A list of instructors and their qualifications
  6. Samples of all forms to be used in the school, such as contracts, sign-in sheets, attendance records, transcripts, and guest instructor logs
  7. A copy of the school’s handbook, including refund and disciplinary policies
  8. Valid background checks for each owner

A person cannot relocate a massage therapy school without first obtaining a certificate of massage therapy school licensure. After completing the application, the school will be subject to an inspection. The inspection will result in approval, suggestions for adjustments/recommendations, or corrections. Schools that do not pass the first inspection will be reinspected within 30 days of notifying the school of corrections.

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