Mental Health Care Reform


Expansion of Medical and Behavioral Health Services

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) promotes the expansion of medical and behavioral health services that are also included in the ten essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). AMHCA advocates for inclusion of Clinical Mental Health Counselors (CMHCs). The CMHC acronym applies to all clinical mental health counselors irrespective of their state title (e.g., Licensed Professional Counselor or LPC).

Although recognized by the National Academy of Medicine for inclusion in federal laws, CMHCs are barred from reimbursement by federal Medicare prohibitions and Medicaid limitations. This limits patient care by prohibiting treatment by over 140,000 licensed mental health care providers as they comprise the largest sector – 37 percent – of the licensed behavioral health care workforce in the United States.

CMHCs provide crucial services for three of these ACA benefits:

Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)

  • CMHCs are licensed mental health providers with master’s or doctoral degrees who are specifically trained in mental health and addiction disorders, and the cooccurring disorders that always accompany substance use disorders.

Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)

  • CMHCs are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat trauma and chronic distress that accompany disabilities so that individuals can live more purposeful lives as contributing members of their communities.

Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management

  • CMHCs focus on comprehensive mental health measures that promote positive lifestyle changes and greater mental and physical health resilience for individuals and families.

Ready to Assist

AMHCA is ready to assist the Biden Administration in addressing several of the domestic crises that President Biden highlighted in his inaugural address (and other issues) on January 20, 2021:

  1. The Covid-19 Pandemic – CMHCs are treating untold numbers of individuals and families that are dealing with pandemic related depression, anxiety, grief, substance use, and other mental disorders
  2. Economic Distress – Uniquely trained in career counseling, CMHCs provide counseling for those who have become unemployed or underemployed
  3. Systemic Racism and Inequality – CMHCs all receive graduate education in multicultural counseling and advocacy for diversity, equality, and inclusion for all individuals and their families
  4. Affordable Health Insurance and Health Care – Our profession is on the forefront for promoting integrated behavioral health care that attends to both medical and psychological issues
  5. Environmental Issues – CMHCs practice holistically to help address social influences that negatively impact the health and mental health of individuals, families, and communities
  6. Substance Use Disorders and Suicide – CMHCs are on the front lines as primary mental health therapists addressing the opioid addiction crisis, and other addictions such as alcohol abuse, as well as employing state-of-the-art suicide prevention strategies.

Our Goal

Our goal is that all Americans will no longer separate mental health from physical health when it comes to access to care or quality of treatment. The next generation must grow up knowing that mental health is a key component of overall health and there is no shame, stigma, or barriers to seeking out care.

Clinical Mental Health Counselors stand ready to engage in a constructive and thoughtful dialogue to ensure the success of future reform efforts. We look forward to continued collaboration on these important issues.