Update on Attorney’s Fees in Workers’ Compensation Cases

It has now been almost one year since the Florida Supreme Court, in Castellanos v. Next Door Co., held that statutory fee limitations on what an injured worker’s attorney could be paid were unconstitutional. In response, the insurance industry has raised workers’ compensation rates by almost 15%. Florida employers and insurance companies now wait to see what, if anything, the Florida Legislature will do to address the situation.

Impact on Employers and Insurance Companies

As a workers’ compensation practitioner, representing only employers and their insurance companies, it is clear that the result of both Castellanos and the lesser known Miles v. City of Edgewater Police Department (a 2016 First District Court of Appeal case that held unconstitutional the workers’ compensation provisions prohibiting an injured worker from contracting independently with their attorney for a contingent fee) have certainly resulted in increased litigation and costs. While the prior fee limitations limited litigation and caused claimants’ attorneys to be selective as to which cases they chose to litigate, the current reality suggests that the opposite is occurring.

Proposed Legislation to Cap Attorneys’ Fees

With its prior attempts to limit the amount of fees that an employer or its insurance company would have to pay an injured worker’s attorney, first in 2008 and again in 2016, the Legislature’s challenge is to find more than a stop-gap solution to fees and resulting claims costs.

Two current proposed bills are currently being considered by the Florida Legislature. They both appear to involve Legislative Amendments to Chapter 440 that addresses recent Florida Supreme Court decisions, and focus mainly on attorney’s fee provisions. House Bill 7085 includes amendments that propose a cap of $150.00 per hour on fees paid to claimants’ attorneys, while Senate Bill 1582 caps such fees at $250.00 per hour. This attorney’s concern is that amendments that focus mainly on only attorney fee provisions, and not substantive provisions of the Statute that lead to the payment of attorney’s fees, will be short-lived and not provide long-term relief for Employers and Insurance Companies.

Employers must keep in mind that they (and their insurance company) only have to pay for an injured employee’s attorney’s fees when a Judge of Compensation Claims finds that an employer/carrier improperly denied workers’ compensation benefits, or when an employer/carrier fails to provide due and owing benefits on an untimely basis. In all other instances, including when a claim is settled, the injured employee pays his own attorney’s fees. Therefore, the best medicine for employers and insurance companies is to use the tools available to them to make sure that claims are quickly and accurately investigated, so that informed decisions can be made on which claims are compensable and valid, and which claims are not.

Move Forward Strategically

The Workers’ Compensation Defense attorneys at Henderson Franklin can help both employers and their insurance companies come up with strategies to effectively investigate claims and make informed decisions on which claims to contest, and which claims to accept. For those valid and compensable claims that are accepted, our attorneys can provide strategies and information which help employers and carriers limit claims costs.

For those cases spiraling out of control with ever-increasing medical costs, Henderson Franklin’s attorneys can help formulate a strategy to settle those claims at a fraction of what may be paid in the future (and with the employee paying for his attorney’s fees). There are many strategies that employers can apply, both before and after a work accident occurs, to reduce and control costs.

For insurance companies, we are available at a moment’s notice to provide recommendations on local physicians and to provide informed strategies on how a local claimant’s attorney will proceed with litigation. All of our Workers’ Compensation attorneys have over 13 years of experience. We welcome you to contact us with any questions or concerns.

About the Author

Michael E. McCabe focuses his practice in the defense of workers’ compensation claims and handles numerous workers’ compensation appeals. He also represents businesses, contractors, and individuals who have received Stop Work Orders from the Department of Financial Services, Division of Workers’ Compensation’s Bureau of Compliance. He can be reached at michael.mccabe@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1218.

Top 5 Takeaways from Facebook Live University

Top 5 Takeaways from Facebook Live University hosted by The News-Press Media Group

With so much of today’s marketing now being on social media it is important to stay updated on the latest trends. The News-Press Media Group hosted a Facebook Live University Seminar to educate attendees on Facebook Live and how it can be used in their business.

  1. Why Facebook Live?

Facebook Live gives your audience the chance to observe something new and in real time. It is interactive, creates a sense of community, and allows you to promote your product or service.

  1. Ideas to use Facebook Live

Depending on your business, there are many ways to use Facebook Live. Host a Q & A session, interview an expert, go behind the scenes and give a virtual tour. You can also use it to show testimonials, giveaways and big announcements.

  1. Before you go live

Monitor your Facebook page’s engagement to make sure you go live at the time of day your audience is engaged. Be sure to promote that you will be going live to help maximize your reach. Update your software, charge your phone, practice, check your connection and rotate your phone horizontally before streaming. Having the right accessories for your phone is also important. A microphone, for example, will ensure you have great audio.

  1. How long should posts be?

When you go live, each post should be at least 10 minutes. This might seem like a long time at first, but it will give you a chance to gain viewers. When you go live your followers will receive a push notification letting them know you are live, and this will give them a chance to get on Facebook and watch. You can even set a timer when you go live to countdown the minutes until the program will begin.

  1. When you are live

Set the scene by introducing yourself and guests, letting viewers know where you are and what you are going to be doing/discussing. Engage with viewers by saying “hi” when people join and answering questions as they come in. Speak clearly and be confident!

Thank you to The News-Press Media Group for this informative presentation!

 

Fraud Alert vs. Credit Freeze

By: Carrie Kerskie, director of Hodges University Identity Fraud Institute

Often there is confusion between a fraud alert and a credit freeze. Many times, I hear people state they have “locked-down” their credit when all they have is a fraud alert. Here is the breakdown to help end confusion.

Fraud Alert
The most common recommendation when it comes to identity theft is to get a fraud alert. What exactly is a fraud alert? Federal law, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), permits you to place a free 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports when you become a victim of identity theft. You call one bureau and they will notify the other two on your behalf. A fraud alert is a statement or disclaimer that is placed on your credit report. It is to notify potential creditors that you are a victim of identity theft and that there is an elevated risk of fraud. You have the option of including your telephone number so potential creditors will call you to verify credit applications.

Remember, a fraud alert lasts for only 90 days. Unless renewed, the alert is removed from your credit report on the 91st day. For those who are active military or are a documented victim of identity theft, there is the option to place a seven-year extension on the fraud alert.

While this sounds appealing, there are things to consider:

  1. A fraud alert is not 100 percent effective.
  2. Your credit report is still received by the requesting creditor.
  3. It expires after 90 days.

Security Freeze
The best way to prevent new account fraud, when someone applies for a new credit account in your name, is by initiating a security freeze. A security freeze prevents new creditors from viewing your credit report. A credit report tells the prospective creditor what kind of payer you are. When the creditor is unable to view your credit report, he/she is unable to determine if you would be a good client, thus, he/she will reject the application. To create a security freeze, contact each major credit bureau (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) and ask for a security freeze, also known as a credit freeze. You can do this online or by mail. In Florida, the fee to initiate a security freeze is $10 per bureau. If you are over the age of 65 or a documented victim of identity theft, with a police report, the initial fee is waived.

You will be provided or asked to create a PIN number with each bureau. This will be used when you need to temporarily lift the freeze to permit a creditor to view your credit report; however, the credit bureaus may charge you a fee each time you lift and reinstate the freeze. Contact each credit bureau prior to the lift to inquire about any fees. The temporary lift can take two days to two weeks. Just make sure you let the creditor know in advance of your security freeze.

As stated before, the security freeze was designed to prevent new account fraud. It does not have any impact on using your current credit accounts. Further, it does not prevent any other type of identity theft. 

One final note, a credit freeze is primarily for individuals who will not be applying for new credit or needing to allow an organization to view his/her credit report. With a freeze, you do have the ability to temporarily lift the freeze to permit an organization to view your credit report. This could cause extra time and expense, typically $10 per credit bureau, to the process. 

Your Guide to Hurricane Preparedness

Courtesy of ready.gov:

BEFORE A HURRICANE 

To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.

Make plans to secure your property:

  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8″ exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Another year-round option would be installation of laminated glass with impact-resistant glazing. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, when high winds are present, be prepared to take shelter on a lower floor because wind conditions increase with height, and in a small interior room without windows. When flooding may be occurring, be prepared to take shelter on a floor safely above the flooding and wave effects.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Hurricanes cause heavy rains that can cause extensive flood damage in coastal and inland areas. Everyone is at risk and should consider flood insurance protection. Flood insurance is the only way to financially protect your property or business from flood damage. To learn more about your flooding risk and how to protect yourself and your business, visit the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (NFIP) Web site, www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419.
 
DURING A HURRICANE

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelter are particularly hazardous during hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.
  • Read more about evacuating yourself and your family. If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors – secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
  • Avoid elevators.

 AFTER A HURRICANE 

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the American Red Cross Safe and Well site: www.safeandwell.org
    • The American Red Cross also maintains a database to help you find family. Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources.
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed¬ out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

Take the 5210 Pledge for Health

May 1, 2017

Healthy Lee is excited to bring back the 5210 Pledge. We hope you’re excited to begin your journey to a healthier you, as well as your family, by committing to the 5210 Pledge. Share your journey during the 5210 Pledge to help motivate others and encourage those who haven’t taken the pledge to do so. If you have already taken the 5210 Pledge, congratulations on taking a step towards healthier habits; if you haven’t, you can take the Pledge here.  

Healthy Lee is a community collaboration working together to help educate members of the Lee County community on healthy habits that can be applied to the entire family in order to improve their health and wellness, working to make individuals and families throughout Southwest Florida a little bit healthier and to do so, they’re introducing a family fun challenge. The 5210 Pledge is a Healthy Lee initiative that encourages the Lee County community to adopt healthier habits that can be applied to the entire family in order to achieve optimal health and wellness. Throughout the summer, Healthy Lee encourages you to make changes to your habits by initiating each month’s focused habits. Our hope is, by the end of summer, you will have built four healthy habits.

The 5210 Pledge is easy and simple. During the 5210 Pledge, we encourage you to commit to the following healthy habits:

  • May: eat at least 5 servings of vegetables & fruits every day!
  • June: limit recreational screen time to 2 hours or less per day!
  • July: commit to 1 hour or more of physical activity every day!
  • August: choose to drink 0 sugar-sweetened drinks and drink more water!

By taking the pledge you’ll try to do each item once a month through August, the goals is that once you’ve completed one moth of the pledge you’ll carry that over to the next month and so on. By the end of the pledge you’ll hopefully be familiar and comfortable with living a healthy lifestyle and you’ll stick with it. 

When you take the pledge you’ll also get helpful resources and recipes sent to your email to help you stay on track throughout the pledge. To sign up and join click here and for more information about living healthy, visit: www.healthylee.com.

Follow us and post your progress with social media using #5210Pledge! Have a healthy eating tip to share? Spread the pledge using #5210Pledge on your social media networks! Invite friends and family to take the pledge to better health! 

Bonita Springs: Show Us Your Moves

Bonita Springs: Show Us Your Moves

With season in full swing, our area is ‘on the move’ with walkers, cyclists, runners, swimmers and golfers. This influx of seasonal residents and visitors, along with the fresh start of the new year, makes this the perfect time for Healthy Lee to launch the Million Mile Movement—a challenge to Lee County to move 1,000,000 miles by March 31. You’re invited to join in and help us reach the goal by tracking your movement.

Take steps toward a healthier lifestyle by walking, running, biking, swimming, dancing or just about any movement activity that covers ground. The Million Mile Movement is a fun way to get moving and energize our bodies and our minds.  It’s also a great opportunity to unify our community, working toward a common goal.  And, our beaches, malls, parks, rivers, downtown areas and neighborhoods offer some of the most beautiful scenery to enjoy while we’re getting in our miles—that’s why thousands of people visit our community every year!

To encourage the community to get active, the challenge is open to all Lee County residents and businesses. By engaging our community, we all are supporting Healthy Lee’s mission to empower and inspire healthy lifestyle choices through education and action. Most people don’t move enough unless they purposely resolve to do so; the Million Mile Movement is a challenge to do just that.

It starts with the first step – joining the challenge. Register to participate in the Million Mile Movement at www.HealthyLee.com. Set a goal – something you know you can accomplish (and maybe a little more). Join an existing team, or create a new team with your neighbors, your church, civic organization, co-workers or your family. Remember, a support system will help you stay on track. Next, get moving, and track your miles on the website. The website even includes a converter tool to change many kinds of activities into miles.

If you already have a regular activity routine, join the challenge and log your miles. Ask your clients, patrons, employees and vendors to join your team; challenge other businesses to beat your goal. Help break up the workday with a daily walk around the office or host a walking meeting that encourages activity and interaction among co-workers.

If you think our goal is lofty, consider this: With an estimated population of 702,000 in 2016, each Lee County only needs to log a mere 1.5 miles during the challenge period to meet our goal!  So, come on, Bonita Springs, join the challenge and show us your moves. Working together, every step will get us closer to our goal of a healthier community.

If you are not familiar with Healthy Lee, it is an award-winning collaboration of more than 300 health care providers, social service agencies, non-profits and business organizations that are coordinating efforts to improve our community’s health. Now in its 10th year, Healthy Lee has had a significant impact on improving the health of Lee County, and access to medical care. In the most recent community health assessment, Lee County reported a 15% drop in obesity, a 35% drop in childhood obesity, gains in physical activity, increases in access to routine medical checkups and a drop in serious disease, such as heart disease and stroke.

Mary Andrews is Lee Health’s System Director of Government and Community Relations.

Hodges University’s Veterans Services Center Helps to Ease the Difficulties of Transition

Hodges University’s Veterans Services Center Helps to Ease the Difficulties of Transition

By: Nicole Roe, marketing and strategic content writer for Hodges University

As a veteran returning from service, the transition can be difficult. The uncertainty of what lies ahead, as well as what options are available can be daunting. For veterans returning to school, not only do they face the same uncertainties, but they are also stepping into a far different role than a soldier, sailor, airmen or marine. They are becoming students once again. However, their time in school does not have to be spent alone. For student veterans at Hodges University, the Dr. Peter Thomas Veterans Services Center (VSC) offers a variety of services to help ease the difficulty of transitioning and make life as a student and civilian much easier.

“One of the biggest challenges our student veterans face is finding a sense of belonging and purpose,” said Christine Manson, director of Hodges’ VSC. “Many of them miss the camaraderie they had while in the service, and they are just trying to figure out their next step.”

The mission of the VSC is to provide a welcoming and informative environment where student veterans and dependents receive support for funding their education and adjusting to student and civilian life. Manson and her staff, which includes Leticia Pizzaro Padilla, manager of the VSC, as well as three Veterans Association (VA) work-study students, provide personalized service to each individual who visits the VSC. Through events and resources, the VSC is able to accomplish its mission of serving student veterans such as Edward Davis, who is also a VSC work-study. “[The VSC] helped with my transition by keeping me updated on events to attend. Meeting with other veterans was important to me because it gave me a group of people to communicate with who can relate to what I’d been through in my seven years in the Army,” Davis said.

In 2016, Hodges received two recognitions for its commitment to student veterans. The university was designated a 2016 Military Friendly School, and it was named to the Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2016.

“At the VSC, we offer three types of services: educating students on their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, resources and referrals, and a professional mentorship program,” Manson said.

Educating Students on VA Benefits
When students arrive in the VSC, many are unsure of their available benefits. Staff members assist students in the process of applying, transferring and monitoring benefits. Student veterans who qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the 100 percent benefit level receive $21,970.46 per year for schooling. “The VSC helped me have a smooth transition from the military to civilian life by helping me apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I was stationed in Korea when I first started working with the VSC to get my benefits started. Once I got out of the Army, I didn’t have to waste any time before I started school because the VSC had all my school benefits ready to go,” said Davis. In addition, Hodges is a participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which increases the tuition and fees benefit to just under $28,000 per academic year. Hodges also contributes up to $3,000, and the VA will match whatever we contribute to tuition and fees.

“Hodges also offers a tuition discount of $100 off per credit hour for veterans who are not eligible for VA education benefits or additional tuition discounts. The level of educational benefit eligibility is based on the amount of time spent in the service. It falls between 40 percent and 100 percent,” Manson explained.

As well as tuition and fees, student veterans who qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill may receive a monthly housing allowance, which is determined by the percentage of benefit level, course type and rate of pursuit. “Students who have 100 percent Post-9/11 benefits and attend classes on campus full time receive $1,692 per month for their housing allowance. Online students attending full time with the same percentage of benefits receive $805.50 for their monthly allowance,” said Manson.

Resources and Referrals
Apart from educational assistance, VSC staff work with student veterans dealing with transitional issues such as finances, mental health and job information. Partnering with internal and external organizations within the community, VSC staff is able to point students in the right direction when they are seeking help.

“We work very closely with Hodges staff, including Dr. Marcia Turner, our dean of students, and Jama Thurman, our career services manager,” she said. From assisting with resumes to connecting student veterans with job opportunities, Hodges’ Career Services provides unlimited resources to put students on a path to career success.

“I have a list of students and alumni looking for jobs, and whenever I receive a job that meets their qualifications, I send them an email with the job information. So, when I hear about jobs for veterans, I look through my active job list and send the announcement to all the veterans I know who are seeking employment,” said Thurman.

One example of how impactful Thurman’s efforts can be to students is seen in Hodges alumnus Allen Franklin. “I applied 37 times to the Lee County School District without a single interview. She took the initiative to make contact with me in order to obtain a resume and to evaluate my goals for a career pertaining to my BSM. After a few minor adjustments, Jama worked tirelessly to ensure I was actively searching for employment to satisfy my needs,” Franklin explained. In February 2016, after receiving an email from Thurman about a position with the Social Security Administration, he applied and accepted the position two months later.

In addition to on-campus resources, the VSC works with outside agencies to assist Hodges’ student veterans. One of these agencies is the local Vet Center. With locations in Fort Myers and Naples, the Vet Center is a valuable resource for veterans and their dependents.

“Due to so many of our student veterans working to find their sense of belonging, the Vet Center can play an integral part in helping a transitioning veteran,” Manson explained. Providing physical locations for veterans and their dependents to visit, these Vet Centers also go mobile with a 34-foot RV, traveling to various locations to be of assistance.

In September and October 2016, Mobile Vet Centers visited the Fort Myers and Naples campuses to help veterans with their benefits, employment needs, counseling, suicide prevention referrals, PTSD and more. It is also worth noting all of the services provided are offered at no cost.

Mentorship Program
The newest program to be integrated into the VSC and its available resources is its mentorship program. “The mentorship program is the natural next step for these student veterans. It is a way to have an ally while in the pursuit of a new career,” Manson said.

Hodges’ VSC mentorship program allows individuals with a military background to serve as mentors to student veterans who may be experiencing a difficult time in transitioning from service to civilian life or simply want guidance and advice from a local professional. Due to the unique requirements and tailored skills an individual learns while in the service, it can be difficult to translate those to the civilian world. Manson explained, “Many people think it is easy to walk into a veteran-friendly business or organization and get a job, but it’s not that simple.”

The program also serves to provide the student with at least one individual who can help with networking and serve as a referral when applying for jobs.

In connecting a student with a veteran who has “made it,” it creates a sense of encouragement, allowing the student to connect with someone who understands the difficulties of transitioning. The program provides assurance to the participants that they are valued in the community and have a bright future ahead.

“In the beginning, the mentor and mentee need to commit to meeting on a regular basis; however, as with any mentorship program, the need to meet as often should decrease over time,” she said.

In addition to the many resources provided by the VSC, starting in winter 2017, student veterans will have the opportunity to become a certified peer support specialist. According to Manson, William Enslen, professor in the applied psychology program, will teach Adjustment from Deployment to Civilian Life and Becoming a Veteran Peer Specialist. Each course is two credit hours. The curriculum totals 40 clock hours, which is the required number of training hours to become a certified peer support specialist. Students are encouraged to contact the VSC to see if VA education benefits can be used toward these classes.

“We live in a true vet-friendly community, and we are fortunate to have so many organizations who support what we do and who want to help our student veterans,” said Manson.

Important Action All Website Owners Should Take As Soon As Practical

Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A.: Important Action All Website Owners Should Take As Soon As Practical

By on

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) any website that allows site users to post content, including anything such as comments, reviews or videos is considered a “Service Provider.” A Service Provider is potentially exposed to copyright infringement liability based on content posted by site users. However, the DMCA also offers a Safe Harbor that, under certain conditions, can insulate Service Providers from third-party copyright infringement claims based on such user-generated content.

To qualify for protection under this Safe Harbor, the Service Provider must meet certain conditions:

  1. the Service Provider must not know about or participate in the infringing conduct and cannot benefit from that infringement;
  2. the Service Provider must promptly remove any infringing content once it discovers same, either on its own discovery or by notice from a third-party; and,
  3. to qualify for the Safe Harbor, a Service Provider must designate an agent to receive notice of copyright infringement claims and must register the identity of that agent with the U.S. Copyright Office.

New Law

Effective December 1, 2016, the Copyright Office introduced a new online registration portal for Service Providers to designate their DMCA agent. All new designations must be done online. However, of utmost importance to existing Service Providers, any Service Providers who previously designated agents via the old paper forms must re-register and re-designate their agent by this online system. In order to maintain protection under the DMCA Safe Harbor these re-designations must be accomplished by December 31, 2017.

Action Steps

This change in the DMCA signals an opportunity for Service Providers to re-examine their website terms of use and notification provisions as well as to ensure proper identification of DMCA claims agents. If your organization would like to discuss these changes and website policy reviews, please contact Mark Nieds at 239-344-1153 or by email at mark.nieds@henlaw.com.

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degrees Can Make a Powerful Impact

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degrees Can Make a Powerful Impact
By Nicole Roe, Marketing & Strategic Content Writer, Hodges University

To the young girl facing anxiety, to the man struggling to deal with financial obligations, to the woman desperate to resolve marital issues, and to the couple needing help with their child’s behavior, you are not alone. The struggles of today are real, and the benefits of a degree in clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) are many – all of which serve to impact the lives of others.

According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association, “Clinical mental health counseling is a distinct profession with national standards for education, training and clinical practice. Clinical mental health counselors are highly skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy.”[1]

At Hodges University, students who enroll in the clinical mental health counseling graduate program receive the necessary knowledge and skills to work with individuals, families, groups and the community. While specializations vary with each student, the program prepares graduates and assists them in becoming eligible for licensure as a mental health counselor in Florida.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of mental health counselors is projected to grow 20 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.” Additionally, the mental health counseling profession is expected to grow 27 percent in the State of Florida.[2]

Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Although it is important to recognize and understand counseling is about helping and making a difference in the lives of others, prior to entering the program, students should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Am I looking for a job that provides variety and challenges?
  • Do I enjoy sorting out, understanding and addressing challenges?
  • Is it my desire to help improve the community and its members?
  • Is my ultimate goal to receive professional licensure and establish myself in a counseling career?

Students who answer “yes” to the above questions can expect to receive instruction that will help to build professional identities and skill sets, as well as awareness to professional ethics. In addition, professors in the CMHC program are experts in their fields. Our professors offer their expertise through speaking engagements and community participation. According to Dr. Mary Nuosce, dean of the Nichols School of Professional Studies at Hodges, during the past academic year, our professors presented on the topics of emotional intelligence, solution-focused therapy, motivational interviewing approaches, training bilingual counselors and LGBTQ ally development. In September 2016, Dr. Tom Hofmann, professor of clinical mental health counseling at Hodges, participated in a podcast with The Thoughtful Counselor titled, “Strength-Based Counseling in a Symptom-Based World: A Conversation with Thomas Hofmann.”[3]

Adhering to an experiential style of teaching and learning, Dr. Amber Pope, program chair for CMHC at Hodges, says, “Our goal is to teach through experiences and stretch the comfort zones of our students.” Describing stress management workshops her students delivered to parents at Early Childhood Learning Services, Pope added, “This is a type of opportunity where students can use what they have learned in class and put it into action within the community. It’s a reminder of why they chose this field and they are doing something impactful.”

In an annual report to stakeholders, as of September 2016, Pope reported since the program’s inception in 2011, “44 students have graduated from the program and more than 90 percent our alumni, who were seeking employment as counselors, have acquired full- or part-time employment in a counseling-related area.”[4]

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online
In January 2017, students will have the opportunity to enroll in the clinical mental health counseling online program. Providing the same level of education and learning, the online program will allow a greater level of access for students who are unable to attend classes on campus. Courses will contain:

  • Four synchronous sessions lasting 2.5 hours each
  • Each core and clinical course will require an 8-hour residency one weekend each semester, which will require students to attend on campus

In order to participate in the experiential learning activities that are a foundation of the program, students will be required to attend on-site residencies, as practice is essential for the development of master’s level knowledge and skill.

In a survey conducted by current clinical mental health counseling faculty at Hodges, local professionals and national mental health counseling programs believe their students and employees, who are not currently enrolled in a master’s program, would be interested in attending Hodges’ CMHC online program. By offering a completely online program, it would serve as the only accredited online CMHC program fulfilling the need in the state of Florida.

Diversity Efforts in Bilingual Therapy
In addition to the launch of the online program in January 2017, Hodges CMHC faculty members are currently researching and conducting research in an effort to develop strategies to improve education for Hodges’ bilingual students who wish to pursue bilingual therapy.

“We live in a community where, once you become a therapist, it is a strong possibility your clientele will not be native English speakers,” said Liana Calderin, applied psychology adjunct faculty member at Hodges. ““There are two bilingual groups: those who speak English and learn Spanish, and those who speak Spanish and learn English. It is much more than learning the language, their culture and background play a large role.”

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Careers
As students become more engaged in the program, participating in internships and serving learning opportunities, they begin to understand how useful a clinical mental health counseling degree can be when determining a career. Some examples of potential careers include:

  • Child Therapy
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Mental health counselor
  • Family counselor
  • Career counselor
  • Life coach

In an article titled, “Celebrating 40 Years of AMHCA By Asking: How Do CMHCs Differ?” Dr. A. Keith Mobley, LPCS, NCC, ACSA and American Mental Health Counselors Association president explained, “Although all professional counselors share the same philosophies, training, and even licenses within a specific state, we don’t all practice with the same issues, diagnoses or treatments. CMHCs are also in quite different behavioral health and managed care settings – ones that require unique knowledge, skills and behaviors – than many of our counseling colleagues. We are similar, but not the same, as all professional counselors.”[5]

[1] Facts About Clinical Mental Health Counselors. American Mental Health Counselors Association. http://www.amhca.org/?page=facts

 

[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm (visited June 30, 2016).

[3] Shook, M. (Producer). (2016, September 23). Strength-Based Counseling in a Symptom-Based World: A Conversation with Thomas Hofmann [Audio Podcast]. The Thoughtful Counselor. Retrieved from http://thethoughtfulcounselor.com/2016/09/strength-based-counseling-in-a-symptom-based-world-a-conversation-with-thomas-hofmann/

 

[4] Pope, Amber. “Annual Report to our Stakeholders and Interested Others.” September 1, 2016. https://www.hodges.edu/academics/academicprograms/masters-clinical-mental-health-counseling.aspx

[5] Mobley, A. Keith. “Celebrating 40 Years of AMHCA By Asking: How Do CMHCs Differ?” The Advocate Magazine. May 2016. https://issuu.com/readamhca/docs/advocate_may2016-5a/1?e=24703549/36536003

 

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