Malfunction in the Junction

(aka a letter to the Essex Junction Trustees re:Massage Establish Permitting)

essex junction10/14/2014

Good Evening. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my letter to the Essex Board of Trustees in place of my presence at this meeting. I am writing in regard to the Draft Massage Therapy Establishment Regulations. I am unable to attend this evening meeting due to an illness in my family.

Before commenting on the draft regulation, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself. I have been practicing massage therapy as a Licensed Massage Practitioner since 2003. My license is from the state of Washington and I have maintained for the last ten years that I have been in Vermont because I believe so strongly in professional licensing.

In 2006, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Vermont Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association.I was also appointed as the Government Relations Chair for the chapter with the priority of working with local massage therapists and and the state government to lay the groundwork for licensing massage therapy in Vermont. In 2008, I formed Vermont Initiative for Massage Standards, a coalition of of massage therapists, representatives of massage organizations, a CAM (Complimentary & Alternative Medicine) advocate who works on the national level, and a legislative consultant who has help create massage regulation in many states.

In 2010, we submitted a Sunrise Application for Regulation of Massage Therapy to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulations. After an open hearing with good discussion by massage therapists on both side of the argument for regulation and a positive response from the OPR counsel assigned to this application, OPR came back with an official ruling against regulation for massage therapy. The stated reason for OPR’s decision is that the director did not believe there had been enough instances of documented harm involving massage therapy.

As of the birth of my daughter in 2012, I resigned from the Vermont AMTA and Maureen Slayton White took over as the Chair for Government Relations. You will also be hearing from her this evening.

Earlier this year, when the Vermont House Operations Committee decided that regulating massage therapy through House Bill 644 was not a priority, I breathed a sign of relief and frustration. HB644 was a reactionary piece of legislation written in response to the ever present problem of prostitution and human trafficking occurring under the guise of massage therapy. Regulating massage therapy is not an effective way to to manage prostitution and human trafficking. I fully agree that sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and prostitution pose a significant public risk and should be stopped. However, those issued should be addressed directly.

My overall concern with the Draft Massage Therapy Establishment Regulations being considered tonight is that you are opting to regulate where, how, and by whom massage therapy can be practiced. But you are only doing this as a means to combat the illegal activities of sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and prostitution.

Massage therapy is a healthcare profession and should be regulated as such. Sex trafficking and prostitution are crimes that should be investigated by the police and prosecuted. Please lets not confuse the two issues. They are not one in the same.

Let’s work together to protect the citizen of Essex Junction and the Town of Essex without putting undo permitting and operational restrictions on the massage practitioners that work with those citizens.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

Chris Widlund

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