One of the many problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was the sharp spike in mental health challenges that impacted millions across the U.S.  To help cope with mental health issues, pandemic-related, or not, it helps many people to know that the licensed therapists they use for mental health counseling or marriage and family therapy have undergone background checks.  Yet, in at least one state – Louisiana – more than half of all licensed professional counselors had no such background check.  The lack of such checks is a serious threat to patient health and safety.

In November of 2021, a performance audit report issued by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor for the Louisiana Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners (LPCBE) revealed that 3,627 out of 5,223 current licensed professional counselors in the state – nearly 70 percent – had not received background checks as of June 2021.

Among other findings by the auditor, the failure to conduct background checks on thousands of licensed counselors means that the state may be granting licenses “without important disciplinary information on applicants from other states.”  As it turned out, some people received a license to practice as a counselor even while there were instances of “inappropriate relationships with clients, fraud, and an arrest for child pornography.”  Often, “disciplined licensees…move from state to state without disclosure or discovery of previous damaging performance.”

Full, complete, and timely background checks are critical to protecting the health and safety of the public.  The failure to conduct such checks exposes people to significant risks for their mental and physical health and safety.