Proposed Illinois laws would prevent people convicted of serious crimes from becoming massage therapists

CHICAGO (CBS) — For months, we have been exposing how in Illinois, a dangerous criminal record may not stop people from becoming licensed massage therapists.

Now, after our reporting, that could change.

As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported Thursday, lawmakers are working to make the entire practice safer for all in Illinois.

Two bills have been introduced in the Illinois state House of Representatives. The possible changes to state law are now being discussed by lawmakers – following our months of reporting, exposing issues with how massage therapy licenses, and more, are handled in Illinois.

Our reporting also exposed issues with how complaints against massage therapists are handled.

It all started with Christine Schirtzinger.

"The system has let me down from one end to other," Schirtzinger told us in December.

Schirtzinger filed a lawsuit after learning her massage therapist, James "Rob" Garrett – who ultimately pleaded guilty to attempted criminal sexual abuse – had a felony conviction in his record.

Our reporting exposed the state does not automatically bar license applicants with criminal histories.

A conviction of sexual misconduct, prostitution, rape, or any other offense requiring registration as a sex offender automatically bars an applicant from obtaining a massage therapist license.

But this is not the case for first-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, arson, assault, stalking, theft, and kidnapping. Those are just a few of the criminal convictions the State of Illinois will consider when determining an application for a massage therapy license.

We also exposed lapses in communication between the state agencies taking criminal complaints and reports and the agency maintaining those licenses.

"Thank you so much for exposing that – and exposing that problem," said Illinois state Rep. Tom Weber (R-Fox Lake), "because if you wouldn’t have done that, we would have had no idea there was problem."

Weber updated us in a virtual interview from the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

"When I looked at it, I was like, ‘Wait a second, you could be convicted of kidnapping and be in these one-on-one, behind-closed-doors situations?’" Weber said.

Weber introduced both bills to introduce new regulations for massage therapy license applicants.

One bill, HB3584, would ensure the state’s licensing office has all records of felony convictions, and make sure a crime victim knows they have a right to file a formal complaint with the state against someone licensed by them.

The other, HB3583, would require a worker such as a state licensed massage therapist to undergo the same checks and reviews as other health care workers – like a certified nursing assistant.

"This is, I think, reasonable to ask that we have minimum the same background check as someone who is working in any other health care field," Weber said.

Lawmakers are still making moves on these bills in Springfield right now. We will keep track and continue to bring you the latest on their status.

Region: Chicago,Local,City: Chicago

via Syndicated Local – CBS Chicago

March 9, 2023 at 06:31PM

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