Government Affairs: Latest News & Updates 

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ACA Members on Capitol Hill During the 2019 Institute for Leadership Training

The Government Affairs team advocates for you and your profession on issues ranging from Medicare reimbursement to portability to school counseling funding. Adding your voice makes our message stronger. Join us by contacting your representatives on issues that matter to you.

 


June 30, 2020

 ACA Sends H.R. 945 Support Letter to House Energy & Commerce

The American Counseling Association recently sent a support letter to the House Energy & Commerce subcommittee on Health in advance of the subcommittee’s hearing on "High Anxiety and Stress: Legislation to Improve Mental Health During Crisis.” The letter details the need for the inclusion of licensed professional counselors (LPCs) as Medicare providers.

H.R. 945, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, will be one of a handful of bills discussed during the hearing. The Energy & Commerce subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes, among other things, public health and quarantine, mental health, public health insurance (Medicare, Medicaid), and private health insurance.


2020 Government Affairs and Public Policy Virtual Town Hall Recap

If you were unable to attend the 2020 Government Affairs and Public Policy Virtual Town Hall, here’s what you missed (in part):

Federal Updates

  • The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2019 (H.R. 945/S. 286)
    • Congressman Mike Thompson (D-5-CA) spoke to attendees about why he sponsored H.R. 945 and how to advocate for this bill on Capitol Hill. He also participated in a question and answer session with attendees.
    • There are currently 114 co-sponsors in the House and 30 co-sponsors in the Senate.
  • Successes this year included:
    • Fully engaging with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
    • The federal Expansion of Practitioner Education Grant now includes the counseling profession
    • Congress authorized funding for Title IV Part A at 1.6 billion dollars through Fiscal Year 2021.

State Updates

  • ACA’s counseling resources during COVID-19 includes the following:
    • Resource Package
      • Telebehavioral Health for States
      • Template Letter to State Governors
      • COVID-19 State Resources
    • State Support
      • Governor’s Office/Executive Orders
      • Governor’s Cabinet/Executive Administration
      • Licensure Boards
  • ACA is working diligently to bring states into greater alignment by working with our national ACA network and allies to advance key priorities and policy:
    • Interstate compact for licensure
    • Conversion therapy bans
    • Ensuring ethical and educational standards meet current best practices
  • Successes this year included:
    • Our team registered a rising tide of anti-LGBTQ legislation in several states. We worked in partnership with our branches and chapters to combat legislation that would have adversely impacted the counseling profession. We are proud to report that Virginia became the 20th state to ban the unethical practice of conversion therapy.
    • Finishing an interstate compact for licensure bill draft for stakeholder feedback this month. A public facing bill draft is expected to be ready following stakeholder feedback in the late fall of this year.

Grassroots Updates

  • Over 17,000 messages were sent to Members of Congress this past year.
  • ACA introduced two new initiatives this year: (1) Advocacy Power Hour and (2) Story Collection Campaign.
  • Advocates were challenged to take action by completing three easy tasks.
  • Successes this year included:
    • Recruiting over 7,000 first-time advocates.
    • Working closely with members of the counseling profession in Iowa and Michigan to successfully oppose the adoption of state regulatory policies adversely impacting Licensed Professional Counselors’ scope of practice.
    • Collected 1,780 stories from advocates and shared these stories with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

This is just a snapshot of what was discussed during the virtual town hall. A recording of the virtual town hall is available on ACA’s YouTube channel, CounselingViews

Answers to questions submitted for the virtual town hall can be found in July’s Counseling Today.

To review the virtual town hall presentation and read about the panelists, please see the additional information below:


 

May 11, 2020

Medicare Bill Sponsor Sends Letter of Support to Congressional Leaders

The American Counseling Association recently requested stories from our members about the way COVID-19 has affected you and your clients. We took those stories, along with additional data, to the sponsor of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 945), Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA).

 Rep. Thompson has been in talks with congressional leadership about the possible inclusion of our Medicare bill (H.R. 945) in one of the upcoming COVID-19 stimulus packages. Thompson’s office was able to submit a letter to congressional leaders on ACA’s behalf, detailing the need for the inclusion of licensed professional counselors (LPCs) as Medicare providers.

As Members of Congress continue to negotiate legislation responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is very important that you urge lawmakers to expand access to critical behavioral health services for Medicare beneficiaries. This is particularly vital during this time of uncertainty.

ACA is grateful to Rep. Thompson and his staff for all of their hard work and for supporting ACA’s advocacy efforts for professional counselors.

_________________________________________________________________________________

May, 4, 2020

Rural LPC’s Provide Telebehavioral Health Services under Medicare during Pandemic

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law. Section 3704 of the CARES Act authorizes Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHCs) to provide telebehavioral health services to Medicare beneficiaries during the COVID-19 health emergency.

Medicare telehealth services generally require an interactive audio and video telecommunications system that permits real-time communication between the practitioner and the patient. RHCs and FQHCs with this capability can immediately provide and receive payment for telehealth services to patients covered by Medicare for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency.

Remote telebehavioral health services can now be provided by any health care practitioner working for the RHC or the FQHC within their scope of practice. This includes licensed professional counselors (LPCs), working under the supervision of an RHC practitioner, and within their state’s scope of practice. The RHC or FQHC are eligible to bill for these services, NOT LPCs individually. Please take a look at the telehealth language, from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare services (CMS).

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team at advocacy@counseling.org.

March 27, 2020

ACA Endorses COVID-19 Telehealth State Coverage Letter  

On Wednesday, the American Counseling Association signed on to a letter to Congressional Leadership, Governors and State Insurance Commissioners requesting “states to temporarily lift restrictions on telebehavioral health at all levels of care by telephone or video for individuals—regardless of insurance plan—and ensure payment parity until the conclusion of this national emergency.”


March 26, 2020

ACA is hard at Work on the Policy front for You and for the Clients You Serve

Your Government Affairs and Public Policy team is hard at work for you and for your clients.  We continue to educate public officials on all of the unique needs of the counseling community.

Oct. 4, 2019

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Proposed Changes to Scope of Practice for Licensed Professional Counselors

The American Counseling Association's Richard Yep, CAE, FAFAE, Chief Executive Officer thanks the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Bureau of Professional Licensing – Boards and Committees Section (“Board”) for the opportunity to provide written testimony in opposition of the
proposed rule changes to R338.1751 and R338.1757.


Government Affairs Blog Posts

 

Using Social Media to Advocate

by DANIA LOFTON | Jun 15, 2020

Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) provides opportunities for legislators to share information about governmental operations and public policy, which supports the fundamental democratic role while also permitting them to fulfill their representation duties of communicating with their constituency. Legislators may use social media to solicit constituent opinions to help them formulate positions on policy issues. Follow your legislators on social media and use the information shared on their social media accounts to attend events, schedule meetings, take action, and stay informed on their legislative agendas.

The 2014 ACA Code of Ethics empowers members within the counseling profession to “advocate at individual, group, institutional, and societal levels to address potential barriers and obstacles that inhibit access and/or the growth and development of clients.” (A.7.a.). Of course, sections A.7.b requires:

“Counselors obtain client consent prior to engaging in advocacy efforts on behalf of an identifiable client to improve the provision of services and to work toward removal of systemic barriers or obstacles that inhibit client access, growth, and development.”

In this moment, it is vital that we continue our advocacy efforts to remove barriers and obstacles that inhibit access, growth, and development for counseling professionals and the counseling community. Although we cannot meet with our representatives and regulators physically, with technology, we can continue to promote the well-being of individuals, groups, and the counseling profession within systems and organizations through the utilization of social media.

YES! You can use social media to advocate without breaching your ethics code. Here’s what the Code of Ethics say about counselors utilizing social media:

  • H.6. Social Media H.6.a. Virtual Professional Presence In cases where counselors wish to maintain a professional and personal presence for social media use, separate professional and personal web pages and profiles are created to clearly distinguish between the two kinds of virtual presence.
  • H.6.d. Use of Public Social Media Counselors take precautions to avoid disclosing confidential information through public social media.

Tweet, post, and follow your lawmakers’ social media pages today to continue advocating for the professional development of counselors, advocating for the profession, and ensuring ethical, culturally-inclusive practices that protect those using counseling services. Remember, advocate for every issue that is impacting the counseling profession and community.

For more information regarding guidance for counseling professionals on how to utilize social media in their advocacy efforts, visit ACA’s Government Affairs and Public Policy Advocacy Resources page and read the "Social Media: An Ethics Tip Guide for Professional Counselors." 

If you have any questions regarding ethics and advocacy, please e-mail us at advocacy@counseling.org.

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