Dr. Paige McKerchar is a valuable asset in many areas. She serves as the head of the psychology department at Jacksonville State University, the director of the Center for Behavioral Studies, and the executive director of the Alabama Association for Behavior Analysis.
Recently, her work as the executive director of the Alabama Association for Behavior Analysis contributed to new state legislation. With the support of State Senator Cam Ward, Bama Hager, Anna McConnell, Susan Hansen, Jane Davis, and the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Dr. McKerchar drafted SB13.
SB13, which passed into law in March, established the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board within the Division of Developmental Disabilities of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. The licensing board was created to regulate the practice of behavior analyst professions.
Dr. McKerchar wrote the bill at the request of Sen. Ward, who sponsored it.
Of the bill Dr. McKerchar says, “State licensure will provide closer oversight of applied behavior analysis service providers and will increase access to services for families whose insurance covers applied behavior analysis therapy, a medically necessary treatment for autism, provided by licensed professionals.”
Sen.Ward also sponsored The Riley Ward Autism Insurance Reform Act that went into law October 2012. The Riley Ward Act helped in offering autism insurance coverage options. However, many of the insurance options required that the specialists be licensed, so behavioral analysis services were not covered. The passage of SB13 allows these systems to work together effectively.
Dr. McKerchar is now assisting with the identification of the first licensure board members and with the development of the Rules and Regulations.
Licensure is not something that is only happening in Alabama, however. Dr. McKerchar states, “Behavior analysts across the nation are working toward state licensure,” as the demand for applied behavior analysis (ABA) services and their coverage increases, largely stemming from the autism insurance reform efforts.
With the passage of SB13 Alabama became the fifteenth state to license behavior analysts who provide ABA services.
While Dr. McKerchar’s efforts benefit the state, Jacksonville State University also stands to grow and experience greater demand for its programs as a result of the passage of SB13.
“JSU's psychology department offers the only graduate program in Alabama that is accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International, the primary membership organization for behavior analysts; and it offers one of only two graduate programs in Alabama that provide the coursework necessary for becoming a licensed behavior analyst,” says Dr. McKerchar.
The course sequence of JSU’s psychology department is also one of only two in Alabama that are approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
“The BACB provides professional credentialing for behavior analysts nationwide—establishing and evaluating minimum standards for behavior analysts,” says Dr. McKerchar. “Alabama’s behavior analyst licensure requires successful completion and maintenance of the standards set by the BACB to receive a license to practice behavior analysis, so these BACB-approved course sequences will be in even higher demand than they were previously.”
“JSU psychology's faculty, its students, and its alumni are excited about serving as a leader in behavior analyst training at such an important time for Alabamians in need of ABA services,” says Dr. McKerchar.