Indy massage therapists ask for additional regulations

WISH Photo/Howard Monroe

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH ) — An Indiana lawmaker is looking to regulate the massage therapy industry. He says it’s a way to combat human trafficking.

The bill is sponsored by state representative Ron Bacon. It comes during National Human Trafficking Month.

Indiana is no stranger to human trafficking. And those in the industry say they’re looking forward to the regulations.

“My thoughts are that the bill is overdue,” said Matt Winings, a certified massage therapist located in downtown Indianapolis. “I think it’s in the best interest of public health and safety to require certification for massage therapists. Massage is much more than relaxation, and certified massage therapists want to be part of your healthcare and to help with your well-being,” Winings continued.

Indiana is one of six states that don’t require certification.

Under current state law, massage certification is voluntary. Anyone can be a massage therapist as long as they’re over 18, have a high school diploma and complete a massage therapy program.

If the bill passes, therapists would be required to have 500 hours of supervised instruction at an approved massage therapy school.

Lawmakers say the lack of regulation is leading to human trafficking.

“We sort of live in a little bubble here and we don’t know it, and so anything we can do to stop it or help it is something we should be doing,” said Rep. Ron Bacon, a Republican from southern Indiana.

Rep. Bacon says the issue first came to light when the city hosted the Final Four in 2015. And then in October of 2016, police raided seven Indianapolis-based massage parlors in a prostitution ring.

Winings went through 600 hours of schooling at the Indiana Therapeutic Massage School. His studio is in the Stutz Arts building. He says before going to a massage therapist, check on the state’s website for their certification. Certifications can be found through the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency. Also, on the studio’s website they would say that they’re certified.

“It’s also well within your right to show up at a massage therapist office and ask them, ‘Where is your state certification? I want to see it,'” said Winings.

This bill has been proposed before but failed to reach the governor’s desk. The major difference this time is that there’s a new governor.

24-Hour News 8 will continue to follow this story.

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