S.D. massage panel wants to mandate draping

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Massage Therapy Board decided Monday to seek a state law requiring customers to cover certain parts of their bodies.

The message: Massage businesses run by licensed therapists aren’t places of prostitution.

“We’re being violated on a regular basis by customers coming in,” said board member Bridget Myers of Sioux Falls.

Myers said she requires all clients to be draped. But she’s heard from other licensed therapists that some customers want only wash cloths or hand towels — or nothing.

“I want the public protected too,” she said. 

The board voted to forward Georgia’s requirement as a possible model. It says: “Provide draping and treatment consistent with client safety, comfort, and privacy in compliance with recognized professional standards of massage therapy practice.”

Some states have more explicit rules or laws. Some including South Dakota don’t require any covering.

The board also asked for a state law that would provide ‘title protection,’ so unlicensed persons couldn’t falsely present themselves to the public as licensed massage therapists.

The two requests will next be considered by the state Department of Health, which the board operates under.

If the department agrees, the proposals would go to the senior staff of Governor Kristi Noem for a decision whether bills would be offered for the 2021 session of the Legislature.

Lawmakers would then decide next winter whether to pass them and send them back to the governor for final decisions whether they become law with her signature.

The board licensed 872 practitioners in fiscal 2019, including 803 renewals and 69 new licensees. There were four formal complaints, with three investigated and resolved.

Board member Al Trace of Hermosa supported the draping request, saying “some specifics” would serve as a guideline.

Another board member, Fallon Helm of Aberdeen, agreed. “Enough to know it is a law, and we’ll enforce it as much as we can,” she said.

Lorin Pankratz of Sioux Falls, the board’s lay member, ultimately voted for the draping but suggested it was something better left for the therapist and the customer to decide: “It seems to me it should be self-policing if that’s the way to say it.”

Mitch Richter of Rapid City, the board’s executive secretary, said his office hasn’t received any complaints from therapists or the public about the lack of draping.

Board president Christine Ellwein of Pierre said the absence of a draping law or rule hasn’t been an issue for her. No one has brought a problem to her. But she sees it as a professional standard for therapists.

“It’s more for the protection of the public,” Ellwein said. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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