HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — At its initial meeting today, the State Board of Massage Therapy began drafting preliminary regulations that will protect the health and safety of residents, said Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes.

"By requiring massage therapists in Pennsylvania to obtain proper education, skills and training, we can provide the best and most up-to-date health procedures for the general public," Cortes said. "Creating a freestanding board of regulation for massage therapy will allow practitioners' needs to be more directly addressed, allowing for efficiency and professionalism in business."

The State Board of Massage Therapy met today in Harrisburg to begin drafting preliminary regulations, to elect officers and address other operational matters. The board operates under the Department of State's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, which now provides administrative and legal support to 29 professional and occupational licensing boards and commissions.

"Professional licensing protects the health, safety and welfare of the public from fraudulent and unethical practitioners," said Commissioner of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs Basil L. Merenda.

Governor Edward G. Rendell signed Act 118 of 2008 into law on Oct. 8.

The act created a board that includes Commissioner Merenda, two public members, the Secretary of Health or designee, the Attorney General or designee, and six professional members.

The act requires that the professional members must have practiced massage therapy for at least five years immediately preceding their appointment.

The initial board members are:

     --  Loreli H. Bauer, professional member, Bucks County     --  Nicole Beck, Office of Attorney General Designee, Dauphin County     --  Toni L. Felice, public member, Butler County     --  Susan Gobreski, public member, Philadelphia County     --  Robert C. Jantsch, chairman, professional member, Allegheny County     --  Martha Kollar Malina, vice chairwoman, professional member, Dauphin         County     --  Donna K. Ponessa, professional member, Lancaster County      --  William F. Vogel, professional member, Allegheny County. 

An additional professional member will be appointed in the near future, and the Department of Health expects to name its designee shortly.

One means of obtaining a license is completion of at least 600 hours of in-class, postsecondary massage education. The education must include training about HIV and related risks, along with cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques. The act also requires applicants to pass a national examination.

A provision of the act "grandfathers" existing practitioners, though they must have been in active practice for at least five years and demonstrated competence to practice.

All licensees are required to complete at least 24 hours of continuing professional education every two years.

The licensure law restricts use of the titles "licensed massage therapist," "massage therapist," and the abbreviation "L.M.T." to licensed massage therapists only; it also prohibits holding oneself out to others as a massage therapist without licensure. This restriction includes advertising as a massage therapist and using any title or description including massage therapist, massage practitioner, masseur, masseuse, myotherapist or any derivative of these terms.

The act generally prohibits licensure of individuals who have been convicted of felonies under the Controlled Substance Act. It also authorizes the board to refuse, suspend or revoke a license if the licensee is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or a felony, or if the licensee engages in immoral or unprofessional conduct.

The licensure law authorizes the board to impose a $10,000 civil penalty on a massage therapist who violates the act, a person who employs a massage therapist in violation of the act, or an individual who holds himself out as a licensee without being properly licensed.

For additional information visit www.dos.state.pa.us and follow the link to "Professional Licensure."

     CONTACT:  Leslie Amoros or Charlie Young,     717-783-1621 

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of State

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