State Representative Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville) recently introduced legislation to establish a state licensure of genetic counselors in Ohio.

Genetic counselors are health care professionals with specialized graduate degrees and expertise in the areas of medical genetics and counseling. However, there are currently no state regulations that prevent inadequately trained individuals from providing genetic counseling and inappropriately calling themselves genetic counselors.

House Bill 292 will permit licensed genetic counselors to provide the following services: elicit and interpret medical and family histories; explain inheritance and natural history of genetic diseases; quantify the chance for occurrence or recurrence of a genetic condition; impart information regarding genetic testing options; discuss management, prevention and research opportunities related to genetic testing; serve as an advocate for patients who have received genetic testing and refer patients to support services; and assist patients in making informed decisions regarding genetic risks and genetic testing that are consistent with the patients’ religious, cultural and personal beliefs.

“House Bill 292 will lead the way for Ohio citizens and health care providers to identify qualified genetic counselors,” said Gonzales.

Genetic counselors conduct clinical tests on more than 1,000 medical conditions, and hundreds of additional tests are currently in research and development. They work with health care providers by providing risk estimates for disease, interpretations of complex genetic tests, and detailed explanations of options to their patients. Genetic counselors are uniquely qualified to ensure that Ohio citizens receive the advantages personalized health care and genomic medicine have to offer, with the least likelihood of negligent application.

Advances in medicine and technology have expanded the traditional field to include illnesses as common as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes. These developments have made it possible to provide testing to healthy individuals, which places these counselors in a crucial role in the treatment chronic disease, as well as prevention and wellness.

House Bill 292 has been assigned to the House Health and Aging Committee.


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