Genetic counselors are now required to be licensed in Alabama, thanks to a 2019 state law that regulates the service and sets minimum practice standards. About half of U.S. states require licensure for genetic counselors, to help ensure competency and as a first step toward billing for reimbursement for their services.
As members of a health care team, genetic counselors provide risk assessment, education, and support to people diagnosed with – or at risk for – a variety of inherited medical conditions. They assist in decision-making, interpreting genetic testing results, and helping patients and families better understand genetic information.
Genetic counselors practicing in Alabama who aren’t licensed by Oct. 1, 2021, will receive reminder letters. Implementation of the law was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Alabama Board of Genetic Counseling began accepting license applications on Feb. 15, 2021. An Alabama license is required for genetic counselors in other states who serve patients in Alabama, through telehealth, for example.
There are approximately 5,000 genetic counselors in the United States. Most of Alabama’s roughly 25 genetic counselors – including all those at UAB Medicine – already have obtained their license, which involves providing documentation of their training and paying an annual license fee (currently $300). To obtain the license, genetic counselors in Alabama must be certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling or preparing to sit for their board exams.
Fallon Brewer, MS, CGC, is the lead genetic counselor for Prenatal Services in the UAB Department of Genetics. In 2019, she was selected to chair the new Alabama Board of Genetic Counseling, which developed the licensing requirements and issues the licenses. Alabama’s licensure law adheres to standards set forth by the National Society of Genetic Counselors.