Controversial music therapist bill debated

ATLANTA -- A bill to license music therapists produced one of the more divided votes Monday in a long parade of bills considered by the House and Senate.

The Senate voted 33-17 to pass Senate Bill 414 that, if it becomes law, would require the therapists to get a state license.

Even the sponsor, Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, expressed surprise at the controversy.

“When the music therapists brought this to me, I thought why do we have to license music therapists? All they have to do is turn on the radio,” she said.

There are only about 100 music therapists in Georgia, and the University of Georgia is one of the two schools that trains them. They primarily work with children who have delayed development or autism, but they also sometimes work with the dying to help them relax.

Members of other professions, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists and audiologists, often use music with their patients. They’re not eager for the competition, fearing that insurance companies may opt for the therapist who charges the least.

Unterman acknowledged the battle between the professions over which qualifies for the therapy billing code used by insurers.

“Everyone who’s been in the General Assembly understands turf wars very, very well,” she said. “It is no intention of the music therapists to try to take over speech therapy.”

Unterman promised to amend the bill in the House to provide wording that limits the scope of the music-therapists’ practice and limit overlapping with other professions.

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