Some ideas, no matter how well-intentioned, can lead to harmful repercussions. That’s certainly the case with House Bill 255 (HB 255), which was recently introduced in the Ohio Legislature. If enacted, the bill would create a nontherapeutic massage registry for unlicensed bodyworkers in Ohio under the Department of Public Safety. HB 255 states: “The department shall issue nontherapeutic massage registrations and conduct investigations relating to those registrations,” (page 19).
We encourage you to elevate your voice and email the representatives who introduced HB 255 to show your opposition to the nontherapeutic massage therapy registry bill.
ABMP Opposes HB 255
While ABMP understands that HB 255 was drafted with good intentions to help reduce illicit sex businesses and assist victims of human trafficking, we ultimately believe the bill will not be successful in accomplishing these purposes. Solving the issue of human trafficking and criminal activity by requesting unlicensed, undocumented individuals performing “nontherapeutic massage” to join a registry may appear like a good idea on paper in an ideal world, but not in practice. Here’s why:
- Raise a Hand if You’re a Criminal
Individuals who operate illicit sex businesses typically do not hire licensed massage therapists—many do not hire at all. Work may be forced labor, and “employees” may be the victims of human trafficking. These businesses will likely not allow their employees to sign up as nontherapeutic massage therapists. In this scenario, these businesses may make more of an effort to remain hidden in the shadows to evade law enforcement. Simply, if individuals engaging in illicit activity are not self-identifying now, a registry will not be a tool that encourages them to do so.
- Defining Nontherapeutic Massage
HB 255 defines nontherapeutic massage as: “massage techniques that do not constitute massage therapy because they are performed for other reasons than treatment of disorders of the human body,” (page 20). This overly broad, nonspecific definition will likely create confusion in the massage profession and with the public and could lead to negative, unintended consequences.
- Depreciating Value
If a nontherapeutic massage therapist requires no education, ABMP questions if the proposed registry could devalue a massage therapy license. While the intent of the registry is clear, ABMP believes the outcome is worrisome. Creating “nontherapeutic massage” will likely devalue the licensed massage industry because it provides a legal avenue for unlicensed, nonqualified individuals to practice under a nonspecific, broadly defined field of practice. By contrast, licensed massage therapists in Ohio require at least 600 hours of formal education in massage techniques, anatomy, physiology, ethics, safety, and sanitation. Would the public understand the difference between the two credentials? Probably not. Which means your license is in jeopardy of suffering depreciating value.
Protect the legitimacy of your massage therapy license and remind lawmakers that rooting out illicit sex business and human trafficking are law enforcement issues. Creating a nontherapeutic massage registry for the purpose of solving these issues tarnishes the massage industry by muddying the waters of what is, and is not, massage. ABMP believes the massage therapy profession is one based upon a foundation of integrity that offers wellness benefits to the public. HB 255 would misalign the industry with criminal activity. We encourage you to elevate your voice and email the representatives who introduced HB 255 to show your opposition to the nontherapeutic massage therapy registry bill.
ABMP believes HB 255 would neither further help protect the public nor resolve the issue of human trafficking and illicit sex businesses.