Re: Licensure of Genetic Counselors in Florida (HB 1233/1235 & SB 1770/1772)

I am writing to you in recognition of my support of HB 1233/1235 (“Genetic Counseling Patient Protection Act) and SB 1770/1772 (“Genetic Counseling Workforce Act”).

Genetic counselors provide a valuable service to families who may be impacted by a birth defect or a disease that may be influenced by genetic factors. They identify families or individuals at risk, investigate the problem present in the family, interpret information about the disorder, analyze inheritance patterns to determine risks of recurrence and review available options (genetic testing or otherwise) with the family. Genetic counselors also provide supportive counseling to families, serve as patient advocates and refer individuals and families to community or state support services. They serve as educators and resource people for other health care professionals and for the general public.

Florida has master’s level genetic counselors, PhD trained geneticists, and physician trained medical geneticists who provide genetic counseling. The existing standards of practice recognized by the medical community necessitate genetic counseling be provided to insure proper utilization of new genetic tests and to maximize the public’s understanding of the risks, benefits and limitations of genetic tests.

Currently, genetic counselors, although widely used, are not recognized as licensed health professionals in the state of Florida. Some individuals are providing genetic counseling without formal training and some patients who need counseling are unable to assess the competency of individuals who provide genetic counseling. At this time genetic counseling is required for many forms of genetic testing. Patients who do not receive genetic counseling or receive inaccurate genetic counseling may have unnecessary testing or may not be given access to appropriate testing. To minimize the risk for public harm, licensing laws for genetic counselors have already been passed in 29 states including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah, with active efforts in almost every other state. As genetic medicine is transferred from the research laboratory to clinical practice, the state of Florida must identify a mechanism for ensuring the competency of genetic counselors that will be called upon to incorporate the evolving technologies of genetic medicine. I would therefore urge that you support this legislation, which establishes licensure for genetic counselors in the state of Florida.

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