After five thwarted attempts, Indiana
massage therapists are hoping to see a bill establishing state standards
for their industry pass through the Indiana legislature this year.
Is the sixth time the charm?
“Indiana has gone through a complete
power shift from Democrat to Republican, so we have no idea what
will happen,” says Barbara Lis, government-relations chair
of the Indiana chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association
(AMTA), which has been driving the legislation.
Last year, the bill went further than
it has in previous years when it sailed through the Indiana House
of Representatives, passing 76-17. But it stalled in the Senate
when the Health and Provider Services Committee chair, Sen. Patricia
Miller, failed to put it on her committee’s agenda. Miller,
a Republican, is known for her anti-regulation stance.
The chapter was involved in talks with
Miller to save the bill when a squabble between legislators on an
unrelated matter broke out. Republicans and Democrats became embroiled
in a battle over same-sex marriage, spurring Republican lawmakers
to flee the statehouse in protest. The AMTA’s bill was among
65 bills killed by the walkout.
This year, the AMTA will be back in
Miller’s office hoping to convince her to give the bill a
chance. Lis says the AMTA’s strategy to get the bill passed
involves continuing to educate legislators about the need for regulation,
“and being patient about it.”
The bill - which has been developed
over the past eight years with input from massage therapists, massage
schools, and members of the AMTA and Associated Bodywork and Massage
Professionalswould set standards for anyone identifying her-
or himself as a massage therapist, massage practitioner, masseur,
masseuse or bodyworker. Language in the bill specifically exempts
energy workers and other practitioners who don’t use the aforementioned
If the bill passes, therapists would
be required to complete at least 500 hours of classroom instruction,
pass a standardized test and obtain a state license. Established
massage therapists would be grandfathered in under the law. The
bill would establish a state board of massage therapy charged with
overseeing licensing. The law also establishes an equivalency-licensing
protocol for massage therapists moving into Indiana from other states.
As massage techniques continue to grow
more sophisticated and therapeutic, state standards will help raise
the massage industry’s credibility, says Janet Carroll, R.N.,
a massage therapist and education director for the Center for Vital
Living School of Massage in Fort Wayne.
“We are a health-care field,
and [state standards] will help people take us more seriously,”
Moreover, Indiana massage therapists
hope that state regulation will weed out illegal massage parlors
and help legitimate practitioners win the age-old struggle to differentiate
themselves from seamy activities. As neighboring states began regulating
the massage industry, prostitutes poured over state lines into Indiana
and set up shop in massage parlors.
“In Kentucky, 62 illegal establishments
were closed, and they’re moving into Indiana,” Lis says.
“I’m hearing every month that there’s a case of
- Laurel Chesky
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