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7/25/2023 New laws sponsored by Gallo, Handy address hearing, speech-pathology services
STATE HOUSE – Two new laws sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Hanna M. Gallo and Rep. Arthur Handy will help provide access to high-quality care for Rhode Islanders with hearing or speech-language concerns.

One of the bills (2023-H 5874, 2023-S 0299) updated Rhode Island laws concerning audiologists, in large part to reflect a change in federal laws that now allows some hearing aids to be sold over the counter. The federal change created two classes of hearing assistive devices — over-the-counter and those provided though prescription. A separate federal change several years ago also eliminated the need for a letter of medical necessity for all who purchase a hearing aid, but until this legislation was enacted, the requirement remained in Rhode Island’s laws.

“The federal changes were meant to increase access for people who need hearing assistive devices. Codifying them into state law now ensures that Rhode Islanders won’t face unnecessary barriers to getting the devices they need,” said Representative Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), who was raised by deaf parents and who often sponsors bills to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing Rhode Islanders.

The second piece of legislation (2023-S 0565, 2023-H 6489) updates the state’s laws concerning licensing of speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Besides making technical changes, it addresses a situation that became an issue during the pandemic: licensing for speech-language pathologists and audiologists practicing telehealth. Under the previous law, those who practiced in person in Rhode Island had to be licensed in Rhode Island, but those located in another state who had remote visits with people located in Rhode Island did not. The new law now stipulates that out-of-state speech-language pathologists and audiologists must obtain a Rhode Island license to practice remotely here.

“Telehealth is a great tool that has improved access to the health care and wellness services that Rhode Islanders need. It is valuable, real care, and it should be licensed as such – the same as in-person care is. This new law ensures that the standards we require in Rhode Island for speech-language pathologists and audiologists are being met, whether the appointment occurs in person or virtually,” said Senator Gallo, who retired last month as a speech-language pathologist for Cranston public school and has sponsored numerous bills concerning speech and hearing services in Rhode Island.

Both bills were approved by the General Assembly during its final week in session, and were signed by Gov. Dan McKee shortly afterward.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923