DORA Quarterly Fall 2016
In this Issue
From Joe Neguse, DORA Executive Director
It’s been a productive summer at the Department of Regulatory Agencies. As the legislative session wrapped up, the department now has more powerful tools and mechanisms to catch and prosecute those who use legitimate licensed professions as a veil for illegal activities.
DORA pursued a legislative bill in partnership with local and federal law enforcement to combat human trafficking by strengthening the regulation of massage therapy. It is unacceptable and a crime to use a state-issued license as a guise for human trafficking. This bill, which received bipartisan support,will close gaps to protect consumers and victims of human trafficking by specifically targeting criminal behavior.
Check out our current updates on these efforts and more below, and as always, we welcome encourage your feedback and ideas by emailing us at DORA_EDO@state.co.us.
Colorado has seen an increase in the number of prostitution and human trafficking offenses linked to massage therapy as evidenced by the number of cases in DORA’s Division of Professions and Occupations (DPO), which is responsible for licensing and enforcing standards for massage therapists.
Dozens of recent investigations statewide of businesses suspected of human trafficking include a number of unlicensed individuals forced to provide massage services to customers. Statutory loopholes allowed these traffickers to aid and abet such unlicensed practice without penalty. While the issue of human trafficking is complex, one way to help law enforcement stem this illegal activity is by strengthening regulation and closing a loophole in state massage licensing laws that are exploited by criminals.
In June, Gov. John W. Hickenlooper signed House Bill 16-1320, which shifts the prosecutorial focus away from victims and onto the perpetrators by making the aiding or abetting of unlicensed practice a criminal violation. The bill also clarifies the ability of local governments to inspect massage businesses upon complaint of illegal activity to ensure that massage is being performed by a state-licensed individual. The bill was a collaboration among DORA, the Office of the Attorney General, law enforcement, professional associations, and other key agencies and stakeholders.
In coordination with the FBI, DPO recently presented a roadmap to law enforcement at a meeting of the Colorado Trafficking and Organized Crime Coalition. “Strong regulations for massage therapy businesses will help give us the tools we need to effectively address illegal activities involving individuals and businesses that are operating criminally,” said Daniel Brennan with the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Massage professionals adhere to rigorous ethical standards, and the practice of massage therapy should never be exploited by criminals,” added Kathryn Stewart with the American Massage Therapy Association - CO.
Regulations provide important protections for consumers and businesses as they help set the ground rules and prevent fraud. Keeping regulations streamlined, relevant and the decision-making processes behind them efficient and transparent, are important components to developing a strong economic environment.
The Colorado Office of Policy, Research & Regulatory Reform (COPRRR), which is responsible for conducting the Sunrise and Sunset reviews for the state, has implemented several new initiatives to encourage greater public participation in the regulatory reform process and improve access for the public to get more engaged in the regulatory decisions that are made. COPRRR’s new initiatives include, among others, the following:
New Website: A new citizen-centric web presence, dora.colorado.gov/opr, is designed to help the public better understand the regulatory review process and ways they can participate. The website encourages visitors to interact with state agencies and government in a variety of different ways.
Soliciting Public Comment: Public understanding and input is critical to all of the sunrise and sunset reviews that COPRRR conducts. The office is currently soliciting public input through its new website on multiple pending sunset and sunrise reports. Visit the “Participate” tab on dora.colorado.gov/opr.
Citizen’s Guide: In an effort to further inform the public about Colorado agencies’ rulemaking and how they can get involved, DORA and COPRRR have jointly published a “Citizen’s Guide to Rulemaking.” The guide is available online at dora.colorado.gov/opr. Hard copies are also available at DORA’s offices, 1560 Broadway, Denver, CO 80202.
Encouraging Cost-Benefit Analysis Requests (CBAs): If you are a business owner and there is a rule change being proposed by a state agency that could impact your business, you can request a CBA to ensure that the cost benefit of the rule has been fully vetted.
White Paper Initiative: Later this year, COPRRR will begin issuing white papers meant to clarify particular issues specific to the regulatory environment. These papers will be published and distributed to policy-makers across the State.
For further information, or to suggest a topic for a potential white paper, please contact COPRRR at DORA_OPR_website@state.co.us.
The abuse of controlled substances is a serious health problem nationally and in Colorado. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), unintentional overdose deaths from prescription opioids quadrupled since 1999. Studies suggest an estimated one in 10 healthcare practitioners will develop a problem with controlled substances (the same rate experienced by the general population), raising concerns for patient safety.
In response to this statewide crisis, the Division of Professions and Occupations (DPO) is undertaking policy and strategic initiatives to address drug diversion by healthcare professionals and protect patients. DPO is working with hospitals in the state to raise awareness and educate hospital employees about reporting suspicious behavior.
In addition, DPO is encouraging early information sharing for cases involving licensed healthcare practitioners. It hosted an informative webinar in June for healthcare providers -- more than 1,400 people registered for the webinar, which highlighted the fundamentals of licensing and disciplinary processes, required reporting, and trends in expedient board actions to protect the public. DPO continues to work with community partners and associations to help healthcare industry employers better understand drug diversion prevention and enforcement.
For more information, visit the division's Drug Diversion Policy Initiative web page.
A new program in Colorado aims to educate investment advisers, broker-dealers, and financial institutions on how to recognize the warning signs of financial exploitation of the senior population.
Called Senior$afe, this three-part program is designed to educate financial representatives that are best positioned to identify red flags of abuse or exploitation early on and encourage reporting to state and federal agencies, including the Division of Securities and Adult Protective Services.
The training is conducted through a combined effort between DORA’s Divisions of Securities, Banking, and Financial Services and statewide financial firms and institutions. It involves recognizing and reporting the red flags of potential elder financial exploitation, such as sudden large withdrawals or uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
“Vulnerability to financial exploitation increases with age and Colorado’s senior population is growing very quickly," said Colorado Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome. “Many financial representatives have closer relationships with their clients and customers and time is of the essence when fighting senior financial exploitation. Senior$afe is one way to protect our growing senior population in regards to this type of financial abuse.”
Senior$afe uses a “no wrong door approach,” so that no matter which agency the report goes to, there is a commitment to make sure the report gets into the hands of the correct agency or community resource.
View the complete DORA calendar.
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