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Massage Today
April, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 04

California Massage Board Organizes

Tasked to create state certification

By Ramon G. McLeod, Editor-in-Chief

The California Massage Therapy Council, which was created by the legislature to establish state certification for trained therapists, has unanimously elected Ahmos Netanel, a well-known Los Angeles-based massage therapist and entrepreneur, as its first board chairperson.

The new 11-member council, elected officers and committee chairs during its organizational meeting on February 19, and will immediately begin the task of creating a voluntary certification system for massage therapist in the state.

The purpose of the new law creating the council is two-fold. For therapists, certification will provide them with a single, statewide certificate that will supercede an inconsistent hodgepodge of local ordinances and regulations that are typically enforced by police departments. The bill specifically prohibits a city, county, or city and county from enacting ordinances regulating the practice of massage by a certificate holder. Cities and counties retain the right to adopt and enforce local ordinances governing zoning, business licensing, and reasonable health and safety requirements for massage establishments or businesses.

For consumers, the certification assures that the person they are doing business with is a trained massage therapist and, according to the law, assure that massage therapy "can no longer be used as a subterfuge" to violate state laws. The law creating the council is specific about the requirements individuals will need to meet to obtain certification. Therapists must be over 18, and: "The applicant has successfully completed, at a single approved school, curricula in massage and related subjects totaling a minimum of 250 hours that incorporates appropriate school assessment of student knowledge and skills. Included in the hours shall be instruction addressing anatomy and physiology, contraindications, health and hygiene, and business and ethics, with at least 100 hours of the required minimum 250 hours devoted to these curriculum areas."

Applicants will also have to supply fingerprints and can obtain a certificate if they have a license, or similar document, from another state with requirements that meet or exceed those in the new law, California Senate Bill 731.

Beverly May, government relations co-chair of the California chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and a primary driving force behind the new law, said during the meeting "certification (will) allow massage therapists to get one-stop shopping and be certified throughout the state." She also said that the board's goal is to be issuing certificates by September 1, the first day that the law allows their issuance.

Richard McElroy, a retired Los Angeles police officer who represents the League of California Cities on the new board, said that certification will be welcomed by local jurisdictions who have difficulty ascertaining the validity of documents given them now by individuals seeking to open massage businesses.

"The problem is that you just don't know who or where a person gets these certificates," he said in an interview. "The documents could be from legitimate schools, or from who knows where. But certification from a state-recognized and organized board is a whole other matter. That's the value to the cities."

Determining the validity of schools, and the programs they offer, is going to be a significant part of the new council's work.

In addition to Netanel, the board unanimously voted in Bob Benson, chairman of the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP), as vice-chairperson. Other officers included Dr. Ben Drillings, Secretary, and Mason Myers, representing the California Association of Private Post-Secondary Schools.

May was named chairperson of the new council's Public Policy and Local Government committee. Benson was named chair of the Credentialling committee and Netanel was voted in as chair of the Outreach committee.

The 11-member board includes Netanel, Benson, May, Drillings, McElroy, Myers and the following individuals:


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