IDEA Part C Issue Brief: Personnel Qualifications
The Current IDEA Part C Final Regulations
Some major changes that are of particular importance to ASHA members are discussed below, including what the 2011 IDEA Part C final regulations say, the implications for members, and what members can do.
(Items in bold are new language)
- §303.31 defines qualified personnel as "personnel who have met State approved or recognized certification, licensing, registration, or other comparable requirements that apply to the areas in which the individuals are conducting evaluations or assessments or providing early intervention services."
- §303.119(a) further states that "Each system must include policies and procedures relating to the establishment and maintenance of qualification standards to ensure that personnel necessary to carry out the purposes of this part are appropriately and adequately prepared and trained."
- §303.321(a) further indicates that evaluations 2(i) and assessments 2(ii) must be conducted by qualified personnel using informed clinical opinion. Section 3(ii) states "in no event may informed clinical opinion be used to negate the results of evaluation instruments used to establish eligibility."
- §303.119(d), which was added to address personnel shortages, indicates that "A State may adopt a policy that includes making ongoing good-faith efforts to recruit and hire appropriately and adequately trained personnel to provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities, including, in a geographic area of the State where there is a shortage of such personnel, the most qualified individuals available who are making satisfactory progress toward completing applicable course work necessary to meet the standards described in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section."
Implications for ASHA Members
- Members need to be aware that the final Part C rules reflect changes in 2006 Part B final regulations that removed the requirement that states must employ only personnel who meet the highest requirement for the professions in the state. Part C rules require personnel to meet any state-approved certification, licensing or regulations for the profession or discipline in the area in which personnel are providing early intervention services. Allowing states to determine requirements for qualified personnel under Part B has resulted in divergent provider qualifications across the country. Therefore, members need to understand that individuals providing early intervention services under Part C may have differing qualifications.
- ASHA standards, which are reflected in most licensing requirements, guarantee that only the most competent individuals will be allowed to engage in professional practice. ASHA members and the children and families served under Part C need to be aware that allowing states to identify competency standards may result in a two-tiered system in which children and families receiving Part C educational services may be served by lesser qualified individuals than those receiving medically-based early intervention services.
- Members should recognize that private and public insurers, such as Medicaid, recognize only the highest personnel standards and will not reimburse for services provided by individuals who do not meet those standards (i.e., Certificate of Clinical Competence [CCCs] or its equivalent). This includes any state-approved requirements that do not meet the definition of highly qualified as defined in the Medicaid regulations and the ASHA standards.
- Members should appreciate the Department of Education's recognition of personnel shortages, but be aware that states with significant shortages of qualified personnel may choose to adopt standards and/or policies that would allow local programs to hire underqualified personnel as independent practitioners.
What ASHA Members Can Do
- ASHA members should work with the state-identified lead agency, Part C administrators, and hiring officials to underscore the importance of hiring qualified personnel and offering assistance to reduce personnel shortages. ASHA documents on the use and value of employing highly qualified professionals can be found on the ASHA website.
- Confusing and competing standards create difficulties not only for ASHA members and other professional providers, but also for the children and families being served under Part C. Members may wish to provide consumers with information and resources to assist them in advocating for highly qualified personnel.
- Given the Department of Education's recognition of personnel shortages, members should take the opportunity to contact their state speech-language-hearing association, academic programs, and other professional organizations whose members provide early intervention services as well as their state Part C program to develop strategies to ensure that an adequate supply of qualified personnel is available to meet the needs of children and families with disabilities eligible for Part C services. ASHA resources to assist with personnel shortages can be found on ASHA's website.
- Because insurers (e.g., Medicaid) only reimburse for services provided by highly qualified personnel, ASHA members need to ensure that employers are aware that individuals with lesser qualifications, such as those hired under emergency provisions, will not be reimbursed for their services.