Membership Blog

  • 27 Sep 2020 9:21 AM | Jim Macedone (Administrator)

    In a recent posting by AMHCA, they state:

    Congress Passes Landmark VA Mental Health Counselor Bill

    September 24, 2020


    Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved S. 785, sending a major VA mental health and counseling bill to President Trump for signature.  The bill is the most significant new legislation for the counseling profession in over a decade and a tremendous advancement for mental health counselors working for the federal government, and particularly the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    This historic legislation directs the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to create the first ever federal government classification for mental health counselors, referred to as an Occupational Series. The Series will allow counselors to work in federal government agencies under the title of mental health counselor instead of generic Series that apply to many professions. Social workers and psychologists have had their own Occupational Series for decades and it is past time counselors have the same level of recognition. Creation of an Occupational Series for mental health counselors has been a top federal priority for national counseling organizations for many years and is a hard won success.

    S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, also takes several steps to increase the hiring, training, and advancement of mental health counselors within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill requires the Comptroller General of the United States to prepare a study on staffing levels of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. The study will identify “impediments to carry out the education, training, and hiring of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists”, as well as a “description of the objectives, goals, and timing of the Department with respect to increasing the representation of such counselors and therapists.” The bill also creates scholarships for counselors interested in working for the VA Readjustment Counseling Program.AMHCA lobbying firm, Bergman Strategies, worked closely with Members and staff from the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees to develop and advance this important legislation. AMHCA was the only counseling organization to help shepherd this bill through both chambers, but partnered with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy / California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.   


    S. 785 was introduced by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), the Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC). These Senators are long-term champions for increased recognition of mental health counselors, Senator Moran having introduced the original House bill that opened the VA to the profession in 2006. The SVAC passed the bill in December 2019, but the bill really started to gain steam when it passed the Senate on August 5, 2020. 

    AMHCA and AAMFT/CAMFT lobbyists had been working with the House Veteran Affairs Committee (HVAC) on companion legislation, but efforts intensified after Senate passage. Representative Jahana Hayes (D-CT) introduced H.R. 8145 on September 1, a standalone bill that matched the counselor components in S. 785. The legislation was included in a September 10 hearing and September 17 markup. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA) and his staff showed strong commitment to the counselor legislation and ensured that it was maintained throughout the process.

    S. 785 will be sent to President Trump for signature. The legislation requires creation of the counselor Occupational Series within one year from enactment. There is no timeframe for the Comptroller report on VA staffing, but it must be reported to the House and Senate Committees within 90 days of completion.

    The passage of legislation to create an Occupational Series for mental health counselors is a tremendous success for the counseling profession and AMHCA is proud to have played such a pivotal role in its achievement. The Series will increase federal government recognition and hiring of mental health counselors. S. 785 will also expand employment and training of mental health counselors within the VA, a long-term priority of the association. AMHCA wants to thank Senators Tester and Moran, as well as Representatives Takano, Brownley, and Hayes for their commitment to this important legislation.

  • 31 Aug 2020 12:32 PM | Jim Macedone (Administrator)
  • 31 Aug 2020 12:30 PM | Jim Macedone (Administrator)

    AMHCA released a major report today on the number of Americans reporting mental health distress over the last few months.  Please see our new study – Beyond A Perfect Storm – How Racism, Covid-19, and Economic Meltdown Imperil Our Mental Healthand our press release on the study.

    Based on the AMHCA report, nearly 41 percent of adults nationally are reporting that they are suffering from a mental health disorder -- or about 103 million adults in the U.S.

    The AMHCA study is based on surveys developed by the U.S. Census Bureau, Centers for Disease and Prevention, and the National Center for Health Statistics. For more information, please see the link below to a key table through the Census Bureau Pulse Survey.

    Please scroll through the chart and you will find specific information by your state as well. For your convenience, we also have listed the percentage of adults reporting mental health disorders by AMHCA State Chapter below.

    For more information about the study, please contact me at 703-548-4474

    State                   % Reporting Mental Health Disorders

    AL                        33.9

    AR                       43.5

    CT                        35.1

    DC                       36.1

    FL                        40.5

    GA                       40.0

    IA                         37.8

    ID                         45.5

    IL                          43.2

    IN                         42.0

    KY                        26.6

    LA                        43.1

    MA                       35.2

    MD                       39.3

    ME                       37.8

    MI                         40.7

    MO                       37.9

    MS                       48.0

    MT                       36.0

    NC                       39.5

    ND                       33.8

    NH                       40.7

    NJ                        37.6

    NM                       47.5

    NY                       41.1

    OH                       37.1

    OK                       44.1

    PA                        31.8

    RI                         44.5

    SC                       42.3

    SD                       35.4

    TN                        43.6

    TX                        35.5

    UT                        37.8

    VA                        38.3

    VT                        33.2

    WA                       43.8

    WV                       37.0

    Joel E. Miller
    Executive Director and CEO
    American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA)

  • 12 Feb 2019 9:24 AM | Jim Macedone (Administrator)

    For Immediate Release
    Jan. 31, 2019

    Barrasso Press Office (Barrasso) – (202) 224-6441
    Miranda Margowsky (Stabenow) – (202) 224-1437

    Barrasso, Stabenow Introduce Bipartisan Mental Health Access Improvement Act

    Bill will expand access to mental health services for our nation’s seniors.

    WASHINGTON, DC –Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reintroduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 286). The bill would allow America’s seniors access to marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) through Medicare. By providing these mental health professionals the opportunity to participate in the Medicare program, this bill expands the number of mental health providers available to our nation’s seniors.  

    “As a doctor, improving access to mental health care is an important personal priority of mine. I am proud to once again join with Senator Stabenow to introduce the Mental Health Access Improvement Act,” said Barrasso. “This bipartisan legislation expands the number of mental health providers working in the Medicare program. This will make it easier for our nation’s seniors, especially those living in rural areas, to get the care they need closer to home.”

    “One in five Americans struggle with some kind of mental illness and older Americans are no exception,” said Stabenow. “Our bill makes it easier for seniors to have access to the mental health care they need.”

    U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA-05) and John Katko (R-NY-24) introduced the companion bill to S. 286 in the House of Representatives. 

    In the United States alone, 20 percent of individuals ages 55 and older experience some type of mental health concern. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are more than 5,000 Mental Health Professionals Shortage Areas in the United States, and half of all counties in the U.S. have no practicing psychiatrists or psychologists. Seniors in rural communities are the most adversely affected by these shortage areas. 

    The Mental Health Access Improvement Act lifts restrictions on certain mental health professionals that bar them from billing Medicare. This will increase access to existing mental health professionals and allow them to treat America’s seniors.

    Utah Mental Health Counselors Association

  • 11 Jan 2019 6:37 PM | Deleted user
    1. House Democrats seek authorization to intervene in ACA lawsuit (January 02, 2019) House Democrats introduced a package of rules for the 2019 session that includes a provision calling for authorization to intervene in Texas v. United States, the lawsuit that seeks to dismantle the ACA.

    2. Judge who struck down ObamaCare says it will remain in place during appeal process (12/30/18). The federal judge who struck down ObamaCare earlier this month issued an order on Sunday saying it will remain in place during the appeal process.

    3. Surgeon General Calls for Reversing the 'Epidemic' of Youth Vaping in Rare Advisory (December 18, 2018). With teen vaping rates at an all-time high, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams took the rare step Tuesday of issuing a public health advisory to address the “epidemic” of youth e-cigarette use, and propose prevention strategies ranging from better education to legal restrictions on the products’ use.

    4. Drug use during pregnancy not child abuse: Pennsylvania top court (Dec 28, 2018) Reuters - A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Friday that mothers who use illegal drugs during their pregnancies are not committing child abuse against their newly-born children.

    5. What exactly is CPT Code 96127? (09Jan19) CPT Code 96127 is a code that may be used to report brief behavioral or emotional assessments for reimbursement. These assessments may include any standardized screening instruments that will provide both scoring and further documentation to the healthcare provider.

    6. When Will We Solve Mental Illness? (November 30, 2018) The New York Times. — Biology was supposed to cure what ails psychiatry. Decades later, millions of people with mental disorders are still waiting.

    7. Another Mass Shooting? 'Compassion Fatigue' Is A Natural Reaction (November 9, 2018) — (NPR) As the incidents of mass shootings in the U.S. occur, some people are starting to feel numbed by them. Psychologists says this is normal.

    8. Top 25 Best Mental Health Apps: An Effective Alternative for When You Can't Afford Therapy? (26Oct18) We highlight the best mental health apps for 2018 and hear from the experts just how effective they are as an alternative treatment.
    9. New Concept: Forensic Evaluation Training for Asylum Seekers. “The Human Rights Initiative at UB is a medical student run organization that was founded to address the needs of survivors of torture who are seeking asylum in the Western New York area and beyond. Our expanding network of physicians, medical students, licensed mental health providers, social workers, lawyers and others, works to perform physical, gynecological and psychological forensic evaluations for individuals who have been tortured or persecuted in their native countries and are now applying for asylum in the United States. These evaluations can be lifesaving for our clients; individuals are more likely to be granted asylum in the United States with documentation of the physical or psychological evidence of the torture they experienced.” 
    10. Frontiers/Controversy: The Harms of Male Circumcision. Childhood male circumcision is a contentious topic in American culture, but social work literature rarely, if ever, references it. Social work's disinclination to examine circumcision is incongruent with the profession's role as child welfare experts and advocates. Discussing the circumcision of boys touches on several topics, each of which is emotionally charged. Circumcision has implications about human sexuality, body sovereignty, religious minority rights, medical ethics, childhood trauma, rights of men and intersex people. These subjects elicit passionate opinions and social workers are as prone to emotional responses as the general American population.  Despite our different opinions and passions on the topic, social work could provide a unique and useful perspective congruent with our role as child welfare advocates. Early childhood trauma (even if it can't be consciously recalled) can have a lasting negative effect. 
    11. Mental Health & Law: NAMI And Others File Lawsuit Against The Short-Term, Limited Duration Plan Final Rule. “In partnership with the Association for Community Affiliated Plans and other organizations, NAMI filed suit today to invalidate the federal short-term, limited duration (STLD) insurance plan rule issued last month by three federal agencies.” 
    12. Mental Health & Law: Mental Health Parity At Risk. “NAMI released a report highlighting the impossible barriers millions of Americans living with mental health and substance use disorders faced prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).” 
    13. Standard of Practice: Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) “Within the many acronyms used for POLST, the P can stand for: Professional (including Physician Assistant, Advance Practice Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physicians, and other health care Professionals), Patient, Preferences, Palliative. All adults should have advance directives to help guide their future health care plans and identify a surrogate decision maker. A POLST form is for when you become seriously ill or frail and its purpose is to provide medical orders to emergency personnel based on your current medical situation. POLST forms and advance directives are both advance care plans but they are not the same.” 
    14. New Concept: Person-Driven Health Outcomes. “With funding from The John A. Hartford Foundation and The SCAN Foundation, NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance) has developed an approach to individualized measurement for complex populations that is based on measuring how well organizations are helping individuals achieve personalized goals for their health and life. We call this approach person-driven outcomes.” 

  • 11 Jan 2019 6:36 PM | Deleted user
    1. Anxiety, depression as predictive of poor future health as obesity, smoking (December 18, 2018).Study findings published in Health Psychology indicated that anxiety and depression symptoms predicted greater incidence of nearly all medical illnesses and somatic symptoms.

    2. Discovery of the first common genetic risk factors for ADHD (November 30, 2018) ScienceDaily. — Important step in understanding biological underpinnings of ADHD. 

    3. Older adults' abstract reasoning ability predicts depressive symptoms over time (November 30, 2018) ScienceDaily.  — Age-related declines in abstract reasoning ability predict increasing depressive symptoms in subsequent years, according to data from a longitudinal study of older adults in Scotland.

    4. Adolescent brain development impacts mental health, substance use (November 30, 2018) ScienceDaily. —New findings offer promising avenues for early therapeutic interventions in young people. 

    5. Keep it complex: Study shows that previous research oversimplified Schizophrenia symptoms (November 30, 2018) (ScienceDaily) — Negative symptoms in schizophrenia can be so disabling that they interfere with a person's ability to attend school, begin a fulfilling career, and even live independently. Scientists suggest a new way to classify the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, which may influence research and treatment in years to come.

    6. Deep-Brain Recordings May Show Where Unhappiness Lives (November 30, 2018) -Scientific American - New recordings of electrical activity in the brain help reveal the underpinnings of bad moods. 

    7. Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis? (November 30, 2018) — (NPR) New research highlights the link between childhood trauma and mental illness and addiction in adulthood, leading some researchers to call it an issue as pressing as any infectious disease.

    8. An Entirely New Type of Antidepressant Targets Postpartum Depression (26Oct18) A novel drug is intended to help women who suffer from depression after childbirth
    9. Breastfeeding might benefit babies by reducing stress. (12Oct18) “Exclusively breastfed 5-month-old babies who were exposed to a stressful situation had lower levels of cortisol and were less likely to have a fight-or-flight stress response, compared with those who weren't breastfed, researchers reported in Pediatrics. The findings suggest that maternal bonding during breastfeeding may increase babies' resilience to stress and other maternal nurturing behaviors, such as holding and cuddling, may be beneficial, even among those who were formula-fed, said Dr. Robert Wright, who wrote an accompanying editorial.” 
    10. Key Findings in Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. (12Oct18) . 1) A candidate’s position on continuing protections for people with pre-existing health conditions is the top health care campaign issue for voters, among a list of issues provided. 2) When it comes to the Supreme Court and possible future court cases, once again, continued protections for people with pre-existing conditions weighs heavy on the minds of the public. 3) Almost six in ten (56 percent) Americans say they think President Trump and his administration are trying to make the ACA fail while one-third (32 percent) say they are trying to make the law work. 4) As of July 20, 2018, 14 states have not expanded their Medicaid programs and three states are considering expansion. 
    11. Report: World Faces $16T Cost From Mental Illness. (12Oct18) Failure to take action against a mental health crisis that affects every country could cost the world $16 trillion by 2030, according to a study by a task force of medical experts, advocates and patients. The "Lancet Commission" report cites expenditures for health care and the toll of lost productivity, education deficits, and outlays for public assistance and law enforcement. 
    12. The OC Tanner Report: Separate Praise from Feedback. (12Oct18)  Research by O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report finds that 42% of employees who received recognition from their leaders also received a message of “here’s how you can do better” within that same communication. Communicating with employees this way sends mixed messages, leaving them to wonder if your praise is genuine. Further, when recognition is paired with a suggestion for improvement, it sets up an atmosphere of “conditional” praise, in which the receiver wonders what, exactly, he or she must do to earn recognition that’s “worthy” of your notice. 
    13. Report: Younger Vets are an Exception to Lower Suicide Rate . “The rate of veterans ages 18 to 34 dying by suicide increased in 2016 even as the rate for veterans overall declined, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported. The VA credited "great strides in crisis intervention" overall.” 
    14. Arising Needs: Study: 20% in College Think of Harming Themselves. “A survey of more than 67,000 US college students found more than 20% reporting experiences so stressful during the past year that that they raised mental health issues, including thoughts of suicide. "There are some stresses that are exceeding the capacity of students to cope," said lead researcher Cindy Liu of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.”
    15. Study Results: For Adolescent Girls, Brain Function May Influence How Life Events Affect Depression. “A new study finds that recent life events can influence depressive symptoms differently in adolescent girls, depending on how the brain responds to winning and losing. The findings, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, suggest that a strong brain response to winning boosts the beneficial impact of positive experiences on symptoms, whereas a strong response to losing intensifies the detrimental impact of negative experiences on symptoms.”
    16. Study Results: Irregular Bedtimes Add Health Risks. “An analysis of sleeping patterns for almost 2,000 adults found those who had irregular bedtimes had higher body mass index readings, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and A1C, compared with those who had more regular sleeping patterns, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. People with irregular sleep patterns also had a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, depression and stress.” 

  • 11 Jan 2019 6:35 PM | Deleted user
    1. Judge dismisses opioid crisis lawsuits against drugmakers (07Jan18) By The Associated Press. A Connecticut judge has dismissed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and two dozen other drug companies brought by 37 cities and towns in the state, which blame them for the opioid crisis and seek to recoup millions of dollars spent on emergency response and other services.

    2. Should Fatal Opioid-Related Drug Overdoses Be Classified as Suicides? (November 30, 2018)  (Scientific American.) — New research suggests it is time for a categorization change.

    3. The Myth of What’s Driving the Opioid Crisis. (26Oct18) "Doctor-prescribed painkillers are not the biggest threat." As an addiction psychiatrist, I have watched with serious concern as the opioid crisis has escalated in the United States over the past several years, and overdose deaths have skyrocketed. … I have also watched a false narrative about this crisis blossom into conventional wisdom: The myth that the epidemic is driven by patients becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed opioids, or painkillers like hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and oxycodone (e.g., Percocet). 
    4. THE SO-CALLED 'OPIOID OVERDOSE CRISIS' EXPLAINED (26Oct18) "In the U.S. and in countries politically influenced by it, authorities are proclaiming the existence of an 'opioid overdose crisis' or simply an 'opioid crisis'. However, as with all things related to policy concerning drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, it is pure fabrication designed to justify and help perpetuate a human-rights abuse, the 'War on Drugs'."
    5. The truth about the US ‘opioid crisis’ (26Oct18)–  "Prescriptions aren’t the problem The overdose epidemic is unmistakable. But it’s driven by illicit use of drugs. If moral panic results in more patients in pain, that would be a disaster."
    6.  Children, families in need get nods in opioid bill: (12Oct18) An agreement between the House and Senate regarding a sweeping opioid response bill last week contains a number of provisions, mostly modest, promoting the welfare of children and foster youth, according to The Chronicle of Social Change. Small boosts to family reunification and family-focused residential substance abuse treatment also emerged. 
    7. Biopsychosocial Approach to Pain Management (12Oct18) “Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, cancer, and heart disease combined and has been cited as the number one reason to seek medical care in the United States. Medications including opioids remain important resources for pain management, but therapeutic techniques utilized by clinical social workers as part of interdisciplinary approaches to pain management are also effective. Learn about therapeutic techniques clinical social workers can use to help patients manage pain. 
    8. Up and Coming: Congressional Appropriators Propose Increase in HHS Budget to $90B . “Congressional appropriators have proposed to raise HHS' budget by $2.3 billion to $90.5 billion this year, which includes $3.8 billion in funding to fight the opioid abuse crisis. The spending package would allocate $1.5 billion of the opioid funding to state response grants, while community health centers will receive $200 million to fund their behavioral, mental health and addiction treatment services.”  Number of Opioid Abusers Fell Slightly Last Year . “Figures from the HHS' National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed the number of people who misused or were addicted to opioid painkillers dropped to 11.4 million last year from 11.8 million in 2016 and 12.7 million in 2015. Hydrocodone and oxycodone were the most commonly abused opioid drugs, and most opioid users got their drugs free from friends or relatives, but 34.6% got them from a physician, the survey found.” 
    9. Up and Coming: Congress Finalizes Opioid Legislative Package . “House and Senate lawmakers finalized a major opioid legislative package late Monday, and it won't include a technical change to Medicare Part D's "doughnut hole" language pushed by pharmaceutical firms. The final package includes a measure by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that would temporarily lift restrictions on use of Medicaid funds for inpatient addiction treatment.” 
    10. Current Trends: Standard Drugs to Address Opioid Crisis. “At a time when the U.S. government is trying to deal with a nationwide opioid epidemic, many jails across the country are only now rolling out medicines to help inmates overcome addiction. And most of those jails dispense only one of the drugs currently available.” “Medication, when paired with counseling and social support, is considered the standard treatment for opioid addiction. Three medications treat addiction to opioids. Methadone and buprenorphine diminish opioid withdrawal symptoms and can reduce cravings. Naltrexone blocks the effect of opioids and also treats alcoholism.”

  • 10 Jan 2019 6:43 PM | Dennis Alan Tucker
    1. Practice Ethics: How Many Years Does a Therapist Keep Records? “The NASW Insurance Trust strongly recommends retaining clinical records indefinitely. Remember: statutes of limitations for professional liability are based on when the injured party first realizes or should have realized that the practitioner caused harmed. As this could mean decades after the alleged malpractice, disposing of files—ever—is potentially risky."  

  • 30 Nov 2018 6:41 PM | Dennis Alan Tucker
    1. Big Brother? Facebook Increasingly Reliant on A.I. To Predict Suicide Risk(November 17, 2018) — (NPRA year ago, Facebook started using artificial intelligence to scan people's accounts for danger signs of imminent self-harm. Facebook Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis is pleased with the results so far.

  • 30 Nov 2018 6:33 PM | Deleted user
    1. Employers Say 'Mental Illness, Substance Abuse at 2 -year Peak.' (12Oct18) Mental illness and substance abuse issues are at the highest level they've been in two years, according to 60 percent of U.S. employers in a new study released by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Nearly 40 percent of organizations said that their employees are very or extremely stressed, and 39 percent said stress levels are more elevated now than two years ago. 
    2. Arising Needs: School Districts Struggle to Fill Mental Health Positions. “The school psychologist shortage rages on, with one federal study predicting deficits of more than 10,000 full-time psychologists by 2025. But districts have been exploring nontraditional options to provide comprehensive care to all students. The shortages are significant and severe, to the point where we’re in somewhat of a potential crisis,” says Eric Rossen, director of professional development and standards at the National Association of School Psychologists.” 
    3. Arising Needs: Texas Needs Thousands More Special-ed Teachers. “Now that Texas has removed the cap on special-education enrollments, the state will need an estimated $3 billion in additional funding and almost 9,000 new teachers to serve an estimated 30% increase in the number of students who need support and services. Already facing a teacher shortage, the state is offering grants to schools that need special-ed teachers for additional student evaluations.” 
    4. Arising Needs: Teens are Anxious and Depressed, and Turn to School nurses for help. But Most Illinois Schools Don't have One. “To meet the new demands, school nurses are offered extra training in mental health as well as resources from the National Association of School Nurses. They are adding relaxation rooms to the typical beds in the nurse’s office, and they have had to develop detailed cooperation plans with school guidance counselors and social workers, who are trained to handle such issues but, for better or worse, are not always the first stop for students seeking a nurturing response in a school building.” 
    5. Bills & Counseling: Merkley proposes mental health counselors in all public schools. “Marking National Suicide Prevention Week, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., announced the introduction of the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, new bicameral legislation they said would help fill the critical unmet need for school-based mental health services providers in elementary and secondary schools in America.” Co-sponsors bill to 'fill critical unmet need'. 

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