Behavior Analyst Licensing Act Becomes Law
January 13, 2020
Autism New Jersey Celebrates Legislative Victory
On January 13, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed the “Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Act” that will, for the first time, require licensure for behavior analysts in New Jersey and thus provide the needed protections for the vulnerable populations whom they serve.
The enactment of this law is a tangible investment in the health and safety of New Jersey residents – a top priority of the Murphy Administration. It is also the direct result of a shared vision, steadfast commitment, and critical leadership of the legislative sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean (R-21), Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16), and Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-11). We thank the Governor and the law’s sponsors for working with Autism New Jersey and the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis to make this a reality.
“This pivotal law provides the State of New Jersey with the legal authority to protect consumers, employers, and state agencies from individuals who make false claims regarding the necessary competence or whose practice is not consistent with the profession’s ethical and disciplinary standards,” said Suzanne Buchanan, Psy.D., BCBA-D, Executive Director of Autism New Jersey.
With the highest autism prevalence in the country (1 in 34) and thousands of families desperate to find treatment for their loved ones, the demand for ABA services in New Jersey far exceeds the available supply of qualified and competent behavior analysts. Such a combination of high demand and low supply creates a fertile environment for untrained professionals to capitalize on this need. Without the protections afforded by this law, such individuals were free to falsely portray to unsuspecting families that they can provide ABA expertise. As this demand increases, sole dependence on a national and voluntary board certification process is no longer adequate to protect consumers or prohibit abuses by untrained professionals.
“Individuals with autism and their families deserve the highest quality of care,” said Senator Weinberg. “This law will ensure individuals with autism will be treated by professionals who have met appropriate standards. This is a win for families and a sign of New Jersey’s ongoing commitment to quality healthcare.”
Agreeing wholeheartedly with Senator Weinberg’s call for better care, Senator Kean describes how this law can reduce families’ challenges. “When a professional is not skilled in behavior analysis, they can do more harm than good,” said Senator Kean. “This law addresses growing concerns about unlicensed, untrained, and unqualified practitioners. Behavior analysis is a powerful tool in the treatment of autism, developmental disabilities, and mental health issues that has shown great promise. It makes sense to ensure professionals in this growing field are properly educated and licensed.”
Assemblyman Zwicker and Assemblywoman Downey recognized the importance of taking action to make licensure available and mandatory for these professionals as the demand throughout the country and especially in New Jersey exceeds capacity and continues to increase. Assemblyman Zwicker and Assemblywoman Downey stated that this law “will help families feel more secure in knowing the services their loved ones receive from a behavior analyst are backed by both experience and licensure requirements.”
This law was also actively supported by the state-based trade organization and universities across the state.
“Well-trained behavior analysts offer highly specialized and effective services that improve individuals’ lives,” said Kate Cerino Britton, Ed.D., BCBA, President of the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis. “For example, behavior analysts have taught thousands of children and adults with autism communication, social, and life skills.”
Mary Louise Kerwin, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Director of the Center for Behavior Analysis at Rowan University said, “Given the tremendous unmet treatment needs of individuals with autism and other behavioral challenges, this licensure law is critical. It will provide consumers with an accountability mechanism and serve as the foundation for workforce development initiatives to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of individuals here in New Jersey.”
This law establishes the State Board of Applied Behavior Analyst Examiners that will license Behavior Analysts, develop regulations for the practice of behavior analysis, and oversee the profession in the State of New Jersey. In the coming months, Governor Murphy will appoint members to this Board, and then the Board will provide information on regulations that will provide more detail on the licensing process.