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Professions seek licensing

April 30, 1998
By: Emily Goodin
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Patty Miles is sitting in the state Capitol building with needles sticking in her wrists, ankles, feet and in the back of her neck.

It's not voodoo, it's acupuncture.

"The only one that really hurt was on the heel," Miles said.

Miles, a Capitol staffer, is being treated for pains in her neck and heel. There were 19 needles in her body for about 20 minutes.

"It's not painful," said Kathleen Coleton, her acupuncturist. "People feel a sensation like numbness or tickling, but it's not painful. It's only painful if you hit a nerve, and that's really painful."

An acupuncturist uses thinner needles than those used in giving a shot. The needles used for shots are hollow, so the medicine can come through, but needles used in acupuncture are solid.

The needles are inserted in muscles to help them relax.

"It's like taking air out of a balloon. It's releasing pressure," said Coleton, who has been practicing for four years.

Acupuncturists were in the Capitol for a reason. They're one of the many groups attempting to be licensed by the state of Missouri. To do so, they have to go through the state legislature first.

"It's protection under the law," said Leslie Coff, president of the Acupuncture Association of Missouri.

The law would recognize acupuncturists already licensed on the national level and establish a licensing and regulation board.

For five years, acupuncturists have been attempting to be licensed.

"We just hope that this year is the year," Coff said.

But if acupuncture isn't your style, the masseuses are just down the hall.

They, too, are trying to become licensed.

"Right now, anyone who wants to can call themselves a masseuse or therapist," said Esteban Rubalcaba of the Missouri Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association.

There is a national license, but the only option on the local level is a municipal business license.

"There's no uniformity within Missouri," Rubalcaba said. "Your license for one city doesn't transfer to another."

This is the second year masseuses have been trying to become licensed.

The bill would require any business that advertises massage to have its therapists licensed. The business would then be subject to inspections and could be closed if state standards aren't met.

Professions that become licensed come under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. There are 31 boards currently under the department's jurisdiction, according to the department.

These boards range from dentists to barbers to landscape architects. Approximately 297,000 professionals are licensed in the state. Acupuncturists, massage therapists and interior designers are just some of the professions trying to join them.

"I think many of them believe being exclusive will help them financially, but all the studies show this to be untrue. And it's a little bit of prestige," said Rep. Joseph Treadway, D-Lemany, chairman of the House Professional Registration and Licensing Committee. Most professions go before this committee to seek licensing.

Professional boards are financially independent. They collect their money from license fees, which in turn pays for any expenses, such as office equipment or personal.

Most board members are appointed by the governor. The terms and responsibilities vary from board to board. It's those members who create the rules and requirements for the profession.

But once a profession makes it through the legislature, it often comes back.

"It's basically updates," Treadway said. "Land surveyors have been trying to update their practice for the last four or five years. They have some new technology not mentioned in the law."

Real estate appraisers, land surveyors and cosmetologists are some of the profession who are trying to update their boards this year.

All of these professions - those seeking license and those updating their bylaws - have been rolled into one large piece of legislation currently awaiting debate before the Senate.

The bill number is HB 1601 and can be found at