Monday, October 24, 2011

Nebraska: Social Workers want referrals for gay patients from counselors who refuse to treat them

Jim Cunningham
Canadian Business reports via AP that Jim Cunningham, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, has said psychologists, therapists and other licensed counselors should be able to refuse to treat clients because of religious or moral convictions and not have to refer them to another therapist.

In Lincoln on Monday a coalition of social workers, psychologists and family therapists filed a petition insisting that the Department of Health and Human Services advance rules requiring certain mental health professionals to offer referrals to gay patients if they refuse to treat them because of religious beliefs.

Terry Werner, who heads the Nebraska chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said such referrals are already required in the code of ethics that governs each profession in the group. But he said the proposed regulations have sat untouched by the Division of Public Health since mid-2010.

"We believe that a therapist has the right to refuse service based upon religious or moral convictions," Werner said. "However, they absolutely must provide a thorough and comprehensive referral. Anything less than that, in our minds, is in violation of our code of ethics and is not in the best interest of the client."

Good luck getting Nebraska's homophobic governor, who has a history of arrogantly rebuffing attempts at diversity and inclusion in the Nebraska HHS, to sign off on that. His 2009 appointee as head of Nebraska Dept. of HHS, Kerry Winterer, is an attorney, not a social worker, who, after practicing law and working in the banking and software industries, co-founded The Benefit Group, Inc., which administers health care and other employee benefit plans for small employers. In 2007 he left The Benefit Group and started his own consulting and legal practice.

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