Chapter celebrates Medicaid agreement for LCSWAs

After years of advocacy work, the NASW North Carolina Chapter is celebrating good news for new social work graduates.

While Medicaid in the state has directly enrolled and reimbursed licensed clinical social workers, or LCSWs, for about 10 years, Chapter Executive Director Kathy Boyd announced that Medicaid has now agreed to also directly enroll licensed clinical social worker associates, or LCSWAs, who are new graduates working to obtain their LCSWs.

The LCSW is a required license in North Carolina for those who wish to practice clinically, Boyd said. The LCSW requires an MSW from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited school of social work, passage of the Association of Social Work Boards’ national clinical exam, and 3,000 hours of post-master’s clinical experience with 150 hours of supervision.

“This is pretty standard requirements for the LCSW license across the U.S.,” Boyd explained. “The LCSWA is the license that the new master’s level graduate gets while fulfilling the 3,000 hours, supervision and passage of the exam.”

By allowing LCSWAs to also enroll in Medicaid reimbursement, North Carolina residents will have more providers in the system, Boyd said. “This should reduce wait times for services and help with the number of available providers in rural areas of the state,” she said.

Boyd said the chapter approached the effort as a workforce development issue in North Carolina. The public sector had long been the training ground where social work students went for internships and then jobs right after graduation, she said. However, with the advent of mental health reform in the state about 12 years ago, that was no longer the case.

“Agencies could not get reimbursed for new master’s-level practitioners, so they couldn’t hire them,” Boyd said. “The next generation workforce was immediately and drastically cut off.”

The new LCSWA enrollment will make it easier for new graduates to find employment, Boyd said.

“Reimbursement is tied to employment,” she said. “Especially in the public sector. Agencies want to hire those who they can easily get reimbursed for services.”

The chapter also announced that after holding meetings with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest insurance provider in the state, the company agreed to begin directly enrolling LCSWAs in March on a county-by-county basis. Full statewide implementation is expected by July.