NASW Chapters Help Spur Creation of Nation's First Social Work Interstate Compact Commission


By Paul R. Pace

Social work licensure reached a milestone in April, as the seven-state threshold needed to pass the interstate compact legislation was reached. This prompts the next phase of social work interstate compact development, including initiation of a Social Work Compact Commission.

NASW acknowledges the significant efforts of its state chapters and members who volunteered their time to advocate and help pass the compact bills during the 2024 legislative session.

Washington State Governor signing into law the Social Work Licensure Compact638508213141739386

At press time, 10 states had passed Social Work Interstate Licensure Compact legislation, which will provide a regulatory framework that allows interstate practice. The states to pass the measure so far are Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington state. Additional states have legislation in progress and hope to be added to this list soon. Pictured at left: Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (seated) in March signs into law H.B. 1939, Adopting the Social Work Licensure Compact. Standing, from left: Allen Acosta, Veterans Legislative Coalition; Mary Soderlind, executive legislative assistant to Rep. Tina L. Orwall (D-33rd); Bob Cooper, Evergreen Public Affairs (NASW-Washington lobbyist); Tammie Perrault, regional state liaison with the Department of Defense; Jerry Fugich, chair of the Veterans Legislative Coalition; Rep. Mari Levitt (D-28th); Nichelle Curtis McQueen, NASW-Washington Legislative Action Committee chair; Jeremy Arp, NASW-Washington executive director; Rep. Tina L. Orwall.

A commission comprising one representative from each member state will govern the compact. The Council of State Governments will lead the process of “standing up” the commission, including convening the “charter member states” (commissioners from all states that have enacted the compact legislation at the time of the first commission meeting) to draft the initial rules and bylaws. The first compact commission meeting likely will take place this fall. NASW will have a nonvoting seat on the compact commission.

While the commission has been established, social workers cannot yet practice via the compact in member states. The implementation process for the compact may take up to two years. Social workers in member states who have passed the compact legislation cannot begin applying for multistate licenses until initial compact implementation is complete.

Karen E. Goodenough, PhD, MSW, LGSW, executive director of the NASW Minnesota Chapter who helped write the compact legislation, said the commission will begin work this year to write the rules, develop a shared data system, decide on staffing and leadership, set rates, onboard states, and more.

“Social workers should know that NASW chapters are working very hard to enact the compact in as many states as possible—as we know it will only be useful if it allows practice in many states across the country,” Goodenough said. “Some state legislatures are very amenable to compacts, and others are very wary, so please do not assume that if legislation is not yet moving in your state that we are not working on it. Please reach out to the NASW chapter in your state to learn more about the potential of your state participating, and better yet, volunteer with your NASW chapter to engage in the process—testify, call your legislators, write letters, help make it happen.”

NASW CEO Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, MSW, LCSW-C, said the nation is contending with a shortage of mental health providers and an interstate compact will allow for practice mobility and remove barriers preventing social workers from providing care in multiple states, especially in areas that are underserved, geographically isolated, or lack specialty care.

“The compact will also improve the tedious, time-consuming and expensive process of social workers having to gain licensure in each state where they want to practice,” Estreet said.

Helping Social Workers

Jeremy Arp, executive director of the NASW Washington State Chapter, said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law H.B. 1939, Adopting the Social Work Licensure Compact, on March 19.

At the signing ceremony, Inslee said, “Social workers are critical to our health and behavioral health care system. Ensuring a robust network of licensed social workers is a key priority for Washington.”

“This was our key legislation this year,” Arp said. “Our legislative action committee made it a priority because our NASW members have been asking for increased licensure portability for years in our surveys and other outlets.”

“We are very excited about it because it gives our social workers an ability to not have to maintain a license in multiple states like they currently do,” he said. “It saves them money, but it also helps bolster our workforce for behavioral health in Washington.”

Arp said the state’s behavioral health workforce has struggled to meet the demand of residents for years. “With the advent of telehealth, (the compact) will boost the ability to meet the mental health need of Washingtonians.”

“Our association overall has worked really hard on getting the compact language finalized,” Arp added.

Iowa Senate State Government Committee approving the Social Work Licensure Compact

The NASW Iowa Chapter is close to passing the Social Work Licensure Compact. In April, it passed both the state House and Senate and was forwarded to the governor for approval. Pictured at right: On March 11, the Iowa Senate State Government Committee approved H.F. 2512—the Interstate Licensure Compact bill.

“I am 99.5% sure we will get this passed,” said Denise Rathman, executive director of NASW-Iowa. She said a social work compact will allow more clients to get the help they need. “Iowa has a lot of underserved areas when it comes to mental health services. It will provide the opportunity for clients to meet with social workers outside of the state. That is particularly important for clients who need special services, such as treating eating disorders.”

For clients who do well with telehealth services, the compact also is helpful, she said.

Having a licensure compact will aid social workers who live and work near Iowa’s two multistate regions, Rathman added. “If you are a social worker who works for an agency that has offices in multiple states, it can be helpful to get a multistate license,” she said.

Sarah Butts, director of Public Policy at NASW, said the future requires eliminating regulatory barriers that prevent access to professional social workers and other essential health care providers.

“Establishment of the Social Work Compact means that a new interstate practice environment is emerging for social workers that will present opportunities—including access to care and use of technology—but also some challenges,” Butts said. “There are growing pains ahead and we need to ready the workforce for changes, so that we can meet the needs of individuals, families and communities now and in the years ahead."

Learn the latest at the Social Work Licensure Compact website and the NASW Interstate Licensure Compact website.

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