Horror stories from Evers’ licensor’s line

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — The Assembly Regulatory Licensing Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Capitol to gather information about a massive backlog of license and other certificate applications at the state Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

As Empower Wisconsin reported last week, lawmakers have heard from frustrated constituents about the long delays, the poor customer service and the incompetence plaguing the agency. State Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), chairman of the Regulatory Licensing Reform Committee, compares the horror stories he’s heard to Gov. Tony Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Workforce Development and its failure to timely fill tens of thousands of Unemployment Insurance claims.

Empower Wisconsin has reviewed more than a dozen complaints to legislative offices, and spoken to several sources dealing with DSPS. Here are some of their stories:

Long wait

Mica Hough, a Milwaukee-area professional counselor, applied for her license in April 2021. Her application was processed in August, but Hough was informed that she was missing a form — a form she had sent into DSPS upon applying in April. She waited on hold two hours to talk to a DSPS agent, but received no response. State Sen. Dale Kooyenga’s office got involved in her case in September. Finally, after a nine-month delay, Hough received her license.

‘For what exactly?’

A Sortwell constituent said he, too, filed for his Substance Abuse Counselor in Training license in April 2021. DSPS quickly cashed his $150 application fee payment,

He’s seen no progress in nearly a year.

“I have had UW-Whitewater send in the form that satisfies the 2nd requirement on the list ‘Education and Training Form’ twice since last Fall and I’m still waiting for them to process it. You can’t reach anyone by phone there and they don’t respond to e-mails asking for assistance,” the constituent said. “We are paying the DSPS for what exactly? At this point they should be issuing refunds.”

‘Zero return calls’

Jennifer Milliken has been waiting six months for DSPS to review her application for a Wisconsin Psychologist License. She originally submitted her application and paid the  fee of $156 in November 2020.

“I have sent my transcripts from Northern Illinois University to DSPS three times (cost $11 per transcript). The status of my transcripts on the DSPS website remains ‘Not Met.’ I spent countless hours studying for the EPPP. Took the exam on August 25, 2021 and passed with a score of 633. The status of the EPPP examination on the DSPS website remains ‘Not met.’ The only piece of information that has been updated in my application since November of 2020 is that I passed the Wisconsin Statues and Rules Examination. I took the Wisconsin Statues and Rules Examination on September 1, 2021. The results were not updated until January 31, 2022,”  Milliken wrote in testimony to the Licensing Reform Committee.

She applied for a temporary license in November, including all of the “missing” requirements. Silence.

I’ve sent many, many emails to dsps@wisconsin.gov and DSPSCredPsychology@wisconsin.gov. There have been no replies by email, except for the automatically generated replies,” Milliken said. “I have spent hours (up to 5 hours at time) on the phone trying to talk to someone from DSPS. After waiting on the phone for hours at a time, I have rarely been able to speak to someone. I often get transferred around or to a voicemail machine. I have received zero return calls.”

’The system’s broken’

A Milwaukee-area counselor waited four months for the agency to process her professional license application. She spent a lot of fruitless time on the phone. On one occasion, she said she waited on hold for more than six hours, only to be hung up on when the DSPS business day ended. That’s a haunting reprise of the kind of monster waits unemployment claimants dealt with at the Department of Workforce Development.

“I’m concerned about my peers,” she said. “It’s the system that’s broken. What about my co-workers, my friends, everyone else fighting right now in the midst of this and the current mental health crisis.”

DSPS officials did not return Empower Wisconsin’s requests for comment.

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3 responses to “Horror stories from Evers’ licensor’s line”

  1. David Krantz Avatar
    David Krantz

    It’s all the way down the line with new license applications.

    Where I work, we’re waiting for two new hires to get their Private Security licenses, supposedly due to things that were found in background checks that occurred (1) in 2017 and (2) over 20 years ago, respectively.

    Both of these “issues” have been resolved for years. One of these people had been hired and worked as a corrections officer after having had no issue in passing THAT background check. It’s so bad that they have hired lawyers now to find out what’s happening in Madison.

    I can’t remember even Madison ever running this slow before.

  2. biff Avatar

    This sounds outrageous. I experienced similar delay 25 + years ago. They cashed my check, but I did not receive the license. Eventually I found out the only person that processed that division after processing my money went on leave and no one in the office followed through. I had to have my college send my transcripts again and I sent a current copy of my license from the state originated again and a copy of the back stamped paid canceled check to the person I made contact with. There was no online communication just phone calls and snail mail. I was basically called a liar with my first phone call to which I replied I have the canceled check in my hand. I was pissed! I sent certified receipt required mail from then on to all Gov agencies. To her credit, the person I contacted sent my license with an apology. Sounds like you don’t get anything today with all the tech and maybe not so qualified “affirmative action employees”. Needless to say, although I have been licensed for all these years, I never worked in wis where I have lived since late 80’s. I was bitter about it taking so long and that someone just threw away my paperwork. Never had a problem again except someone messed up my original date of issue many years ago. Paid my renewal fee every two years and retired without ever using it. Always working in my profession, in the state of origin and always meeting any continuing ED requirements. Left my profession in 2019 and was begged by both states to rejoin the workforce because of “cobid” and I told them to kiss my ass after 34 years as an RN.

  3. matt arnst Avatar
    matt arnst

    This is a rushed smear job. Throw me some stats from the last 12 years and show me what steps they have not taken to improve the system or their processes. DSPS is a fine agency. Seems the mental health field is well represented here. How ironic.

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