RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As Virginia faces a critical shortage of mental health professionals, the the Virginia Board of Social Work is now trying to make it easier for social workers to work in the commonwealth.

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced on Wednesday, Oct. 26 that the Virginia Board of Social Work is allowing a faster process for a social worker from another state can receive a license in Virginia.

In 2021, the Virginia Board of Social Work released their standard licensure requirements, which includes obtaining a master’s degree in social work, completing clinical study, completing supervised post-graduation experience, and taking an final examination to receive their license.

Now, any Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Licensed Master’s Social Worker, or a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker who is licensed in another state can obtain a license in Virginia by simply verifying that they:

  • Have a license in good standing in another state
  • Passed the examination at the same level for which they are seeking licensure in Virginia.

These regulations will also make it easier for social workers with an expired or inactive Virginia license to regain their license.

The goal of these new regulations is to lower the barriers and shorten the process it takes to become a social worker in Virginia, at a time when Virginia is lacking in access to care from licensed professionals.

According to a 2021 report by the Virginia Health Care Foundation, Virginia ranked 39th in the U.S. for access to mental health care. Additionally, 93 of Virginia’s 133 localities — where 3.2 million Virginians live — are federally-designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. Two localities have no licensed behavioral health professionals and 35 have no trained behavioral health prescribers.

Youngkin hopes that these easier regulations will help to close some of these critical gaps throughout the state.

“There is a critical shortage in Virginia of mental health professionals, and this is a significant step by the Board of Social Work to help address this shortage,” Youngkin said. “A priority of my administration is to reduce state regulations and regulatory barriers, and this action shows how regulations can be streamlined to remove barriers to practice with the goal of bringing more mental health professionals to the Commonwealth.”

“I am very pleased that the Board of Social Work has taken this step,” Board of Social Work Executive Director Jaime Hoyle added. “The Board is helping address the critical need for mental health professionals, while maintaining the accountability that comes from requiring a state license.”