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Congress adjourned for its August recess without having passed legislation to require most private sector health plans to cover mental and addictive disorder services under the same terms and conditions they use to cover general medical services. House and Senate negotiators have developed a compromise version of the parity legislation passed by the House (H.R. 1424) and Senate (S. 558). This parity language was attached to broad tax and energy legislation pending in the Senate, S. 3335, but a vote in the Senate on July 30th to end debate on the measure fell short of the 60 votes needed to let the legislation move forward.
ACA and AMHCA are joining other mental health advocacy organizations in asking Congress to pass the parity legislation in September, before adjourning for the year. If Congress fails to approve the legislation now, it may prove difficult to resurrect the issue next year, when a new Congress and a new presidential administration will take office and attention will shift to broader health policy issues.
Members should call their Senators and Representative and ask them to work to pass mental health and addictive disorder parity legislation when Congress returns from the summer recess. Use ACA's Capwiz site at http://capwiz.com/counseling to identify Senators and Representatives, and find their office phone numbers. The site also includes sample text for use in a letter or e-mail message.
ACA is devoting significant resources to increasing grassroots advocacy by counselors on two critical issues: enactment of a mental health parity law (see above item), and establishment of Medicare coverage of counselors. Individualized, non-form-letter type contacts from constituents are more influential than anything---even ACA lobbyist visits!
In addition to the parity legislation, ACA is also working to generate more grassroots support for establishing Medicare coverage of counselors. We want Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 1588, and Senators to cosponsor S. 921, each chamber's version of legislation establishing counselor and marriage and family therapist coverage under the program. Although Congress will not be taking up Medicare legislation again this year, the more cosponsors we can get on the counselor coverage legislation, the stronger our support will be heading into next year, when another Medicare bill will begin moving through Congress. Counselors are also encouraged to call their members of Congress to ask them to cosponsor the counselor coverage legislation. When it comes to legislative advocacy, individualized constituent contacts work better than anything else!
ACA members were recently invited to complete a Capella University-sponsored survey about military mental health issues. The results are now available at http://joiningforcesamerica.org/JFA_report.pdf. Among the findings - ACA members feel more prepared to assist post-combat servicemembers with mental health issues than other mental health professionals surveyed, and 98 percent of ACA members surveyed have taken steps to improve their knowledge of post-combat mental health conditions and treatment options. A news release announcing the results can be found here.
Before adjourning for its August recess, Congress passed H.R. 4137, legislation to reauthorize programs under the Higher Education Act. The legislation includes language establishing a loan assistance program for individuals-including school counselors!-working in high-need areas. The legislation now heads to the president for his signature.
Under the bill, loan assistance would be available for individuals employed as school counselors or in one of more than a dozen other areas of national need. In order to be eligible for assistance under the program, school counselors would need to be employed full time in a school in which more than 30 percent of the school's enrollment consists of children from low-income families. To find out if the school that employs you is classified as low-income school, check the U.S. Department of Education's online database.
Note that the program will not be implemented for some time. The bill must first be signed into law by the president, and regulations must be issued by the U.S. Department of Education to implement the law. Following this, Congress must appropriate money for the program. Watch ACAeNews for details. ACA has long been pushing for federal support to increase the number of counselors in our school and communities, and is pleased that these efforts have helped result in passage of this bill.
As the summer months slip away, many children and youth are not using their break to foster academic growth and development. This concern was voiced by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in its Whole Child newsletter (www.wholechildeducation.org). ASCD claims that half of the achievement gap between the "have" and "have not" learners can be traced to summer learning opportunities or the lack thereof. This position is also supported by the National Institute for Summer Learning which offers a fact sheet profiling relevant research on how summer learning opportunities affect children and youth.
Bob Walsh and Norm Dasenbrook share their wealth of information and experience on establishing a private practice in a new program just added to the ACA Podcast series, a new, free Members Only service introduced earlier this year. Interviewed by ACA's Rebecca Daniel-Burke, Walsh and Dasenbrook discuss the myriad organizational and entrepreneurial aspects associated with getting a counseling practice off to a good start and making it successful. Running time: 42:03.
What higher education institutions are doing the best job in awarding degrees to minority students? The annual Top 100 statistics on African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American degree attainment were featured earlier this summer in special reports of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education magazine. Statistics are presented by race, degree (undergraduate, graduate, associate & first professional) and field of study.
Vicki Cooper, Professional Information Specialist, reports that 78 new topical articles have been added to the ACA Online Library, an ACA Members Only service designed to promote professional development, continuing education and renewal of members through research dissemination. The ACA Professional Counseling Digests offer succinct and practical resources that can be put to immediate use. Recently added articles include: Impact of Cyber-Communication on Today's Youth, Life Coaching, and Culturally Competent Counseling. These are proprietary articles on cutting edge topics relevant to all counselors.
Another popular ACA Library feature, Vistas Online captures the ideas and information generated by the ACA Conferences and presents it for practitioner, counselor educator or student consumption. Recent topics inserted in the Vistas Online section include: Choosing an Online Doctorate, Advanced Training in Group Techniques, Counseling Military Families, Solution-Focused Counseling in Schools and Therapeutic Interventions.
Watch for further additions and enhancements to the ACA Online Library.
According to the US Census Bureau, there were 5.5 million workers 65 and older in the labor force in 2006, or about 23% of people 65-74. That figure is up 20% from eight years prior. The number of people 65 and older in the workforce is expected to reach 10.1 million by 2014.
If you are working with people with disabilities and desiring grant assistance, two national organizations may have the information you need to be successful in identifying and procuring external support. The Disability Funders Network and the Foundation Center have been collaborating to improve the quality and availability of information about funding for disability-related issues and causes. One of the fruits of their collaboration is the Disability Grantseekers Guide which can be found on the DFN website. Other valuable links can be found on the Foundation Center website.
Counselors and educators working with students attempting to improve their study and vocabulary skills or prep to admission tests will find Number2 a valuable resource---and it's free. Users must register, however. Prospective counselor education students will also find a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) prep site.
The ACA pre-conference Learning Institutes agenda boasts 40 topics to be offered March 19-21, 2009 in Charlotte; once again they offer a range of counseling practice subjects and settings. A number of the very popular programs and presenters from the 2008 LIs in Hawaii are back. These include:
Check out the full listing of programs and presenters.
Housing for the Charlotte Conference, March 19-23, is now available. Reserve your room early to ensure you get the accommodations you want.
September 18-20, 2008
September 19-20, 2008
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