State Psychologists’ Jobs Saved Thanks to New California Law

More than 100 Local 2620 state psychologists will be able to keep their jobs thanks an important victory in the State Legislature that will give them more flexibility when it comes to obtaining their professional licenses.

On July 31, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1456—a law that Local 2620 leaders helped introduce and advocate for—that changes the timeline required for state psychologists to obtain their licenses.

Before, psychologists who worked at state prisons, hospitals and other government health facilities throughout California were required to get licensed within three years of when they first started their jobs. However, their counterparts who did the same work in the private sector have enjoyed up to five years to get licensed.

AB 1456, which goes into effect immediately, now gives state psychologists up to five years to obtain their licenses and makes sure that our members are treated fairly. This change puts the state licensing code in parity with other codes that govern psychologists.

“This fight has been ongoing for years,” said Abdul Johnson, AFSCME Local 2620 President and Council 57 Vice President. “I’m proud to say that AFSCME Local 2620 psychologists have the same protections as their clinician counterparts as it relates to licensure.”

This legislation affects members at the Department of Rehabilitation, Department of Developmental Services, Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Social Services, Department of Health Care Services, Department of Public Health, Department of State Hospitals and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Dr. Tristin Engels, a staff psychologist at the California State Prison in Los Angeles County, who has had to overcome some medical issues while getting her license, is one of the members this bill will help.

She started working for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2014 with the expectation of getting her professional license within three years.

However, due to backlogs in the Board of Psychology's system, it took Engels seven months to get the approval to take the first of two required exams.

“If it wasn’t for the diligence of the AFSCME Local 2620 president and others, Assemblymember Evan Low, and the approval of AB 1456 by Gov. Jerry Brown,” Engels said, “I would not only lose my job next month but I would lose the team of specialists I have worked very closely with to stabilize my health.”

Johnson said getting AB 1456 signed was a monumental achievement for Local 2620, and it took the collaboration of the Local’s Government Affairs Committee, AFSCME California and others to get the job done.

Not to mention, he said, our state psychologist members never quit fighting until the process was changed for the better.

Dr. Tristin Engels, a state psychologist, wrote a letter on behalf of AFSCME Local 2620 to Gov. Brown urging him to sign the bill.

“My deepest gratitude goes to every state psychologist who has been fighting the good fight to ensure the welfare of the inmates and patients we serve,” Johnson said. “I look forward to meeting the next challenge head on.”