Amidst the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. is also dealing with a shortage of mental health providers.
However, a group of Marymount Counseling students and faculty members are raising their voices to Congress in hopes of closing the provider gap and improving the overall health of the country, both during and after the current health crisis.
Every year, students in the University’s CE599C course perform an advocacy, legislative or service project. This past semester, students Fatima Ali, Chessa Arey, Bethany Baker, Sarah Becker, Scott Heine, Megan Nemeth and Nicole Smith teamed up to research H.R. 945, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, while also reaching out to members of Congress to encourage government officials to support the resolution and include it in any future COVID-19 stimulus packages.
The group said that licensed professional counselors (LPC’s) currently account for one-third of the nation’s mental health care workforce, but have been denied the opportunity to help mental health clients for more than 30 years because the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hasn’t updated its provider list since 1989. They added that a sufficient number of professional counselors are available to provide care, but barriers such as the CMS provider list limit access to mental health services for the nation’s most vulnerable individuals in underserved populations. As a result, access is denied despite the counselors’ availability to help.
But if H.R. 945 is signed into law, coverage and mental health services would be provided for clients under Medicare and Medicaid, services that are currently unavailable. This coverage would be provided after the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
Marymount’s Counseling students and faculty encourage any LPC’s, graduate students or counseling interns to submit a pre-formed letter to Congress in support of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. Additionally, they urge these groups to also tweet at their Congressional representatives with a short video or personal story while using #CounselorsMatter and @CounselingViews.