Tennessee bill dissolving massage therapy board more formality than reality

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Some WATE 6 On Your Side viewers reached out to ask about the future of massage therapy if a bill in Nashville passes. The Tennessee Board of Massage Therapy is proposed to be dissolved in a bill, but it’s more of a formality than a reality. 

Tennessee State Representative Martin Daniel (R-District 18) serves as the State Government Operations Committee chairman. He explained a self-sufficiency review was triggered by law after the board operated at a deficit for two years. Martin further explained that the bill is there if they’re unable to assure that they have a plan to bring their financial house in order. While he says it’s very unlikely the board will be dissolved, the possibility is there. Tennessee law required massage therapists to have a license. If the board dissolved, it wouldn’t change that requirement.

The purpose of filing the bill, Daniel said, is to “accelerate the wind-down,” if lawmakers aren’t convinced a change is coming. The wind-down date was pushed up from June 2022 to this June.

When asked why there was an expiration date in the first place, Martin replied, “All state agencies, boards, and commissions, they all exist at the pleasure of the legislature.”.

He says none of them have more than a life of eight years without extending legislation. 

Robin Nelson is slightly worried about the future of her profession and the profession she teaches to students every day. Nelson serves as the director of education for the Tennessee School of Therapeutic Message. There more than 35 licensed massage therapists in-training learn all about the human body, the places to work on and the ones to avoid. 

Once students wrap up with the program, consisting of a certain amount of hours and testing, they go onto a state test. If they pass, they apply to the Tennessee Board of Massage Licensure to officially be licensed. 

The board handles multiple aspects of the industry in Tennessee, including reviewing licensure applications, either granting or denying them. The board also checks to ensure incoming therapists from other states have the training comparable to Tennessee training institutions. The group also investigates alleged misconduct of massage professionals, even issue punishments in some cases.

After more than ten years in the industry, you can easily see Nelson loves her job. She enjoys both the time with students and knowing it helps other people.

“It brings a great quality of life. it helps with stress. stress can do horrible things on your body. when receiving a message, it helps you to relax, to de-stress, it gives you kind of an escape for an hour where you can just calm your mind and breathe, really.”

She credits the oversight of the Board of Massage Licensure for holding the industry accountable and ensuring quality.

“We need that board. we need that regulating body to let us know what we need to do as far as education, to make sure these people have the right education, that they don’t have any unethical or dangerous things in their past that would make them dangerous to the public,” she said.

She hopes the board makes the appropriate changes to stay afloat.

“There are a lot of massage therapists out there that pay their fees when they’re supposed to and their application fees as well, so I’m concerned about that as well, why are we operating at a deficit, we don’t have the money to continue the board?” she asked. 

Many outraged by the prospect of shutting the board formed a website to garner support against the pending legislation. 

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