Season's Greeting: The 2016 AMHCA Year End Summary

By Suzanne Walker posted 12-23-2016 14:43


Season’s Greetings with a very heartfelt

On behalf of AMHCA, we thank everyone for their hard work in 2016 on behalf of AMHCA at the national level and state level. We have much to look forward to in 2017 as we work together to expand our capacity to address the needs of our members and State chapters - to promote their respective needs and interests on many levels and on many fronts.  We could not accomplish our goals without your significant individual and team contributions on many programs and issues.  2016 has been incredibly busy and exciting year at AMHCA! 

 In 2015,  AMHCA overhauled needed internal operational systems providing the Association greater efficiency and effectiveness, e.g. the implementation of the new membership data-base and information technology systems.  We developed a new web site and launched our on-line communities and expanded our social media presence significantly.  Over the last year, we have substantially increased our blog presence and opened up the process to more members.  We have been going the extra mile to try to provide a unique and important experience (with emphasis on experience) each and every time our members engage us or their peers. As we moved into 2016, there continues to be much more critically important work to do.  Big thanks to Melissa McShepard, AMHCA's Director of Operations and Finance for "sheparding" AMHCA's operations and important money matters! 

We are constantly looking for new ways to make AMHCA even more effective and efficient which we have tried to do under our AMHCA 21st Century Transformation initiative.  We formed the AMHCA 21st Century Committee that has been delving into new strategies on how we can better partner with our state chapters, identify new revenue streams, among other important areas.

We realigned our communication to form the Chairperson Committee so that all of the chairpersons will be able to communicate directly and better connect the dots among the committees on several efforts such as advocacy, policy, programs and leadership. 

Under leadership from Graduate Student Chair, Ashley Pittman, we are revamping resources for ready access: AMHCA Graduate Student Gateway. Ashley is not only hard at work on her Ph.D. but she is vigorously advocating and energizing the Graduate Student voice in AMHCA.

We also reconstituted the Public Awareness Committee (PAC) under the leadership of LaMarr Edgerson and Keith Mobley and launched AMHCA’s Breaking the Silence Campaign with the goal of promoting anti-stigma and anti-discrimination messages from the clinical mental health counseling perspective, using national holidays and other observances to get those issues out into a public forum through blogs and social media platforms. Please see attached the goals of the of PAC. 

We have been very productive on developing timely, relevant content for our members beginning with important clinical updates and new standards to:

  • Standards for the Practice of Clinical Mental Health Counseling 
  • Behavioral Health Care Integration Counseling including a white paper associated with CMHC guidelines that provide a road-map on how CMHCs to better position their practices in health care integration environment.  
  • Under the auspices and work of the Advancement for Clinical Practice Committee, we have issued several Emerging Clinical Practice Briefs on a variety of subjects to assist our members on key areas such as neuroscience. 

On the webinar front, AMHCA sponsored 15 webinars in 2016 and many focused on new and emerging practice and reimbursement opportunities such as addressing the mental health needs of clients with eating disorders.  We have expanded our CEU opportunities (e.g., questions and tests) for the members through the webinars and other communication mechanisms, as well as through our conference programs. 

We launched a new Diplomate Program cycle this fall and revamped the program requirements. We also began the path for the newest Diplomate credential, the Clinical Military Counselor.

Communications wise, we have revamped The Advocate Magazine to be a hard-copy quarterly magazine publication with new features.  Whitney has initiated the restart of the monthly AMHCA Bulletin (newsletter) that will feature timely stories from within our AMHCA family.  The JMHC is expanding is focus to emphasize theme issues with the latest on trauma-informed care. 

On the advocacy front, AMHCA has been incredibly active on Capitol Hill this year.  Through AMHCA & Jim Finley’s lobbying efforts on legislative and regulatory issues -- and participation in several coalitions where we have closely aligned and similar policy objectives. We continue to work very closely with key policymakers, congressional staff and mental health associations and stakeholders in our foremost goal to secure Medicare Provide Recognition for the profession. While we did not meet our legislative goal of securing that status for the profession, we will keep momentum going into 2017 and get to the finish line.  Medicare Provider Recognition is the #1 AMHCA legislative priority. To enhance advocacy momentum, we sponsored three webinars and two separate town hall meetings – including the development of tool kits – to inform CMHC’s on messages and strategies to use in their discussions with legislators and the public on the need for Medicare Provider Recognition for the profession.

 Related to this legislative goal, we have implemented another campaign effort on mental health and aging issues to inform policymakers and decision-makers --under the auspices of the Public Awareness Committee and the Public Policy and Legislative Committee -- on the needs of older adults with mental health conditions and the importance of using current capacity – namely CMHC’s – to address the behavioral health needs of Medicare beneficiaries. We have developed several key messages to inform elected officials on the roles that CMHC’s can play to aid older adults who suffer with a mental illness.

 The Public Policy and Legislative (PP&L) Committee under Josh Maldonado’s leadership has reorganized the committee and identified key goals for the next 12 months. PP&L has a critical role in leading the education, advocacy, and leadership activities of the profession as it strives to reach this vision. The Committee also gives support and direction to improve the membership’s advocacy skills and resources to support their efforts. PP&L’s primary objective in the current year is to increase recognition of CMHCs in the major federal health programs including: Medicare, Veterans Affairs, DoD/TRICARE and Medicaid. Another major committee objective is to provide regular updates to members and potential members on advocacy activities through chapter outreach by Board members and in The Advocate, on AMHCA’s website, and social media resources. PP&L's top 3 Advocacy Objectives are: 

  • Secure passage of legislation recognizing the profession under Medicare
  • Lead and support activities to advance federal recognition and employment of the clinical mental health counseling profession 
  • Promote an AMHCA Advocacy Network system throughout its chapters and membership and increase exchange of advocacy information among members through digital media and other educational and professional venues

NOLA%20Street.jpgIt was a distinct pleasure and honor for our current President, Suzanne L. Walker, as AMHCA President-Elect to work as annual conference chair for our outstanding 2016 Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA. Our partnership with the Louisiana Mental Health Counseling Association marked our truly special 40th Anniversary Celebration with New Orleanian Jazz Ensemble and a meeting hall decked out in purple, green and gold beads and balloons, King cake, masks and an authentic Second Line dance all done in true New Orlean's style. We worked very closely with Scott Circle, our new conference meeting planner who hit the ground running with several conference-related projects and never failed to provide wise counsel every step of the way. 

And what of our 2017 conference? Our current President-Elect, Joe Weeks has been very busy chairing numerous committee meetings with the 2017 Washington D.C. Conference Planning Committee to prepare another world class AMHCA conference for 27-29 July 2017. "Innovate and Advocate: Pathways to Clinical Excellence" is the theme of our 2017 annual conference which will be held at the historic Mayflower Hotel in our nation's Capitol. This 2017 conference is quickly shaping up to be an incredibly exciting event with emphasis on professional advocacy for the counseling profession, leadership, clinical innovation, and emerging and evidence-based clinical practices. The conference committee is hard at work contacting potential partners, exhibitors and sponsors who add significant value to the conference experience. DC.jpg

AMHCA's Director of Communications and State Chapter Relations, Whitney Meyerhoeffer works tirelessly to find ways  to deliver timely and critical information to chapters and membership, enhance our Connections site to connect with end-users and utilize content management systems and search engines. Whitney finds state of the at ways to help members find the CEs, edits and promotes our AMHCA "Breaking the Silence" blog to fight mental health stigma, advocacy tools and information to make more friendly to potential new members and the public, and more. Whitney latest creation is a web based state chapter leader "portal" where state  chapter leaders can access A to Z information needed to manage an AMHCA state chapter.

 Rebecca Gibson, AMHCA's Membership and Diplomate Manager has revamped and reorganized our membership initiatives. Due to her unfailing attitude of "can do", her remarkable efforts, over the last year, have yielded steady increases in our AMHCA membership renewal rates. Our membership renewal rate has increased from 57% in mid-2015 to 77% as of October 2016. By the end of 2016, we are projected to reach 78% -- the 2014 nonprofit industry renewal average.  Over the last two months, we launched a new AMHCA membership campaign helping 100 new members join the AMHCA professional association family. 

AMHCA also working hard to secure several new partnerships to enhance our nonmembership revenue streams and to also add an array of services for our state chapters and membership to utilize. AMHCA's goal is to continue to build a better organization in order to the address the needs of the members, state chapters and to address mental health treatment issues such as stigma and access to care.  On the latter and under the banner of building partnerships, AMHCA initiated discussions this Fall with NBCC, ACES and ACA to develop a new, unified statement with specific elements on licensure portability.  We hope to achieve consensus on this new collaboration to yield a joint portability document in early 2017.

 Our incredibly talented multitasking Regional Directors, Josh Maldonado, Hope Threadgill, Laurie Geren and Kristy Johnson (who replaced Erik Oosternik this September) have put new meaning in the word "outreach". Each of these Regional Directors have implemented new member contact initiatives and have renewed quarterly regional conferences calls with state chapters. Our Regional Directors have a great deal on their plate; handling advocacy requests, linking chapters and members with the right person and source to being an extraordinary communicator of ideas, information and inspiration.

With guidance and initiative from Past President Keith Mobley, a new AMHCA committee has been formed. This committee is called the AMHCA Board of Reference and is comprised of "willing to serve" AMHCA past presidents. This group with great expertise and experience will serve as AMHCA historians, ambassadors and internal consultants to the current Board.

We could go on in regard to the many projects we have undertaken on behalf of the members and we apologize if someone or something was missed or unacknowledged but we will strive to keep you and membership updated. We want to talk with you to hear your ideas and concerns and to explore with you specific areas that you would like see AMHCA address in the coming months and years ahead. We welcome and look forward to our conversations leading up to our Board of Directors Meeting Conference Call on January 17.

We want to end this note by thanking our AMHCA staff for all their hard work this year on behalf of our members, the Board and Committees.  We are a dedicated and very association and staff who focus on maximum productivity for our Mission. Each AMHCA staff person goes the extra mile for our Board, committees and the members. And many heartfelt thanks to all of the Committee chairs and committee members for their time, dedication and hard work involved in their committee work, preparation and implementing so many important projects. 

With the many opportunities and challenges ahead in 2017, Board and chapter collaborative efforts will be our paramount importance. As an professional association whose success and strength can only be measured by its' work together, it is our highest hopes that we can continue to advance our mission and meet the needs of our chapters and membership. This season of hope and the promise of a new year provides a distinct opportunity for all of us to refocus on our priorities and goals, count our blessings and renew our spirit of gratitude.  

Here's our relaxation gift to you for reading all the way down the page (a.k.a. an "EASTER EGG") - Check out You can watch live cams of nature all around the world. Here is one from the Arctic with Polar Bears, icebergs and Beluga whales - Don't forget to put on your sound. It's really amazing.

Sending all of you our very best Holiday and New Year's wishes. May you be safe, be content and be encouraged!  

Our very best regards

Suzanne L. Walker, President and Joel Miller, Executive Director

American Mental Health Counselors Association