Maine Mental Health Counselors Association: Advocacy Newsletter
Greetings to all of our LCPC and LMFT brothers and sisters,
My name is Bethany Leavitt and I am currently serving as the legislative chair on the board of directors for the Maine Mental Health Counselors Association (MEMHCA). I am reaching out to you now during this critical transition period where we face both crisis and tremendous opportunity, individually and collectively. During such a crucial time of uncertainty and change, I urge you to review this newsletter, so that we can genuinely support each other and those we aim to serve.
We will be reaching out periodically to inform and engage YOU in what must become a strong, united collaboration to create a better quality of life for ourselves, our profession, and the populations we aim to serve. Let’s unite however we can to remedy the pervasive states of chronic disconnection that fuel dysfunction and suffering, and help one another to build authentic, healing connections within ourselves, with each other, and the world around us.
Today I would like to ask two things:
1. How can we better serve you?
2. What are you doing to help promote specific advocacy topics and the profession as a whole?
We can ask ourselves: How can we harness current opportunities that will determine the future of our profession and those we hope to serve? What am I doing to seize the opportunities around me, and to uplift your profession as well as those you serve? What can you do? Please read the brief points ahead to find out.
Important Advocacy Updates To Be Aware Of, and
What You, and We, Can Do Moving Forward with These Advocacy Efforts
1) First, a celebration is in order! In 2020 a bill was passed, S. 795 Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019! In the past, a counseling provider would indicate on an insurance form that they are either a social worker, or check the box labeled “other.” Until NOW, the federal government did not consider mental health counselors as an occupation in their classification and did not include them in legislation, laws, regulation etc. Now the mental health counselor is an occupational classification of its own. This bill also “pressures” the VA to hire more mental health counselors. What can you do? Celebrate! That’s an easy one!NOTE: This law is not Medicare inclusion. So, S. 785 is a huge step toward this goal but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do.
2) Portability/Reciprocity of Licensure and Practice: The Interstate Counseling Compact which is being organized by the Council for State Government (CSG) and it’s National Center for Interstate Compacts. The Counseling Compact allows all Clinical Mental Health Counselors who practice in any of the states who do sign this legislation into law at the state level to be able use their professional licensure (in Maine = LCPC) either through in-person or through tele-health service within any other states who also join this compact. In Maine, the legislative team at MEMHCA (Jeri Stevens, Bethany Leavitt) has been working with state legislators and the national organization called the Council for Interstate Compacts to draft, submit, and lobby for the required state-level legislation in order to join the national-level Interstate Counseling Compact. The Compact would increase freedom and accessibility for clients who need or seek mental health service in general, while also increasing the freedom and opportunity for Maine mental health professionals to find and maintain employment while remaining located in Maine, and/or to practice from other states (so long as they joined the Compact). The recently submitted bill is called: LR 2233 An Act to Have Maine Join the Interstate Counseling Compact to Address Inequities in Access to Clinical Counseling Services and Increase Maine’s Provider Workforce. This bill would increase our ability to establish and maintain essential ongoing and preventative care/service to clients who are facing disproportionately high levels of mental health concerns and stress due to the need for relocation or displacement. Common reasons for this include:
- Climate change
- Attending college out-of-state
- Financial crisis or chronic poverty
- Military/veteran status (including families of military/veteran members)
- Extenuating personal/family circumstances, and various social and/or economic burdens of many kinds. Note: It would also allow continued care for clients in the case that the counselor must relocate due to any of the above circumstances, demonstrating mutually beneficial (for clients and providers) policy
What can you do? First educate yourself about the CSG and the Compact. Visit:
- https://compacts.csg.org (info about the CSG, who they are/what they do)
- counseling compact? (infograph about counseling compact)
- Counseling Compact (general info about the compact)
Stay tuned as we will have specific information in late October. If the bill is accepted by the legislative Counsel, we will have a great deal of collective work and lobbying to accomplish this wonderful opportunity.
3) Federal Medicare Inclusion: This advocacy issue will likely take time and consistent effort. Note that the Medicare inclusion bill from the previous (116th) federal legislative session entitled: H.R. 945 Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021 has been re-numbered as H.R. 432 for the current 117th legislative session and the S.828 for Senate Bill. The bill remains the same, aimed “to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for the coverage of marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under part B of the Medicare program, and for other purposes.”
Why is it critical that we become approved providers with “billable status” under Medicare at the federal level? Medicare laws and regulations set the precedent for all states and other insurance companies to follow. A provider like you can choose whether or not to seek Medicare reimbursement, however, if we are excluded as qualified providers from federal legislative regulations we run the high risk of exclusion from future insurance laws and statutes at both state and federal levels. For example, without inclusion in the current Medicare regulations, if Medicare-for-all becomes the standard insurance in the future, then LCPC’s and LMFT’s would NOT be included.
Current Status with New Medicare Bill: In Maine, MEMHCA and supporters have been able to educate our federal congress people (Jared Golden, Chellie Pingree Susan Collins, Angus King) but so far only Pingree, Susan Collins and Angus King have signed on as a “co-sponsors” to the bill.
What can you do? Jared Golden says he has signed on but his name does yet appear. We also need our congress-people to become proactive in encouraging their colleagues from other states to also become co-sponsors.
Please reach out to friends, family and colleagues in other states urging them to contact their members of both the House and Senate to sign on to H.R. 432/S.828. To see which states have signed on, Google “H.R. 432” and click the result from www.congress.gov, OR visit: All Info – H.R.432 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021 …For a sample letter and to locate politicians for all states, visit: Medicare ….Please share this info and the links with your friends, family, and colleagues in other states.
4) Looking ahead at cutting-edge and progressive policy and practice likely to impact the profession more in the future: We are beginning to explore advocacy around the provision and regulation of therapeutic services through the use of psychedelic plant medicine. If you know you want to be involved with this advocacy, please let us know.
Important Membership Information
Did you find this information useful? Did the call to action resonate with you? Are you seeking to build connections that foster resilience in your own practice, within the profession as a whole, and for those we serve? If so, and if you would like to receive more of this kind of information, please consider joining the MEMHCA family. We want to grow together, with you included!
PLEASE VISIT our ALL NEW website and easy-to-use online membership platform! We are offering a 25% discount for new members (for the first year) with the promotional code: NewMember20-21, this code is active until 12/31/21.
Membership benefits include:
- MEMHCA is the only professional organization in Maine that prioritizes clinical mental health counselors and tailors to their needs, concerns, and goals.
- Unlike many professional groups, the MEMHCA board of directors strives to create a mutually warm and supportive environment, and to facilitate that experience for our members who participate in our workshops, events, and conferences.
- Feel like part of our family with new opportunities and pathways to receive support and to make your voice heard, and to have a meaningful impact on the profession and those we serve.
- Receive crucial information and updates about professional licensure requirements, state and federal laws and regulations, upcoming opportunities/events, and other relevant news pertaining to the profession.
- Helpful discounts on ALL workshops/trainings and our Annual Conference – making CEUs more affordable.
- Connection to a community of practitioners in Maine for support, learning, and resources. You can engage and create networks of friendly peers on the Facebook page for MEMHCA members, and the Board of Directors are here to assist and support you too!
- As a member, your own workshops/events related to the profession can be advertised through our Facebook page, on our website, and through our email list of all MEMHCA members!
- Membership with MEMHCA is easy and affordable, and we are always looking for helping hands with a diverse range of background/experience in the field to join our board of directors! For more information on membership, visit Maine Mental Health Counselors Association: MEMHCA
The MEMHCA team thanks you in advance for your time and consideration! Together, we can do so much more.
In service, unity, and gratitude,
Bethany Noel Leavitt – Legislative Chair, MEMHCA
Critical Transitions 2020
Greetings to all of our MEMHCA brothers and sisters,
My name is Bethany Leavitt and I am currently serving as the legislative chair for MEMHCA. I am reaching out to you now during this critical transition period where we face both danger and tremendous opportunity. Today I would like to ask two things; how can we better serve you? And, and what are you doing to help promote the profession?Note that advocacy for our profession is also about increasing accessibility of services to populations in need of service. Please read the brief points ahead.
How can we harness these opportunities that will determine the future of our profession and those we hope to serve? Right now we have the chance to make a monumental advocacy impact toward LCPC’s being recognized as qualified mental health clinicians (LCPC, LMFT), who are therefore reimbursable by Medicare at the federal (national) level.
Why is it critical that we become approved providers with “billable status” under Medicare at the federal level? Medicare laws and regulations set the precedent for all states and other insurance companies to follow. A provider like you can choose whether or not to seek Medicare reimbursement, however, if we are excluded as qualified providers from federal legislation we run the high risk of exclusion from future insurance laws and statutes. For example, if Medicare-for-all becomes the standard insurance in the future, LCPC’s and LMFT’s will NOT be included.
What are YOU doing to seize the opportunities around you, and to uplift your profession as well as those you serve? Although it is a federal bill that we hope to pass, at the state level we can still be instrumental in pressuring federal politicians to pass it. The Dalai Lama stated, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
Current Status with New Medicare Bill:
The federal bills are S. 286 and H.R. 945: The Mental Health Access Improvement Act. In Maine we have been able to educate our federal congress people (Jared Golden, Chellie Pingree Susan Collins, Angus King) who have now signed on as co-sponsors to the bills. However, our congress-people need to become proactive in encouraging their peers to also become co-sponsors.
What can you do?
We need you to reach out to friends, family and colleagues in other states urging them to contact members of both the House and Senate to sign on to S. 286 and H.R. 945. To see which states have signed on, visit https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/286 AND https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/945
For a sample letter and to locate politicians for all states, visit: https://www.amhca.org/advocacy/medicare
Please share these links with your friends, family, and colleagues in other states.
If you have peers and colleagues in Maine who are not currently members of MEMHCA, please encourage them to join our organization to increase advocacy efforts and so they can receive member discounts on future conferences.
Important General Updates To Be Aware Of:
1) Be on the lookout for a survey to assess the professional needs of LCPC’s across the state in order to better continue our advocacy efforts, included but not limited to establishing appropriate legislation. A general goal is to gain and solidify our inclusion as recognized clinicians and thereby increase access to services for those who benefit from our specialized training and practice.
2) Save the date, October 15, 2021 for the MEMHCA annual conference. The theme is Cultivating Resilience in the Face of Adversity. Keynote speaker is Travis Mills: “Never give up. Never Quit.”
We will be reaching out periodically to inform and engage YOU in what must become a strong, united collaboration to create a better quality of life for ourselves, our profession, and the populations we aim to serve. Let’s unite however we can to remedy the pervasive states of chronic disconnection that fuel dysfunction and suffering, and help one another to build authentic, healing connection with ourselves, each other, and the world around us.
The MEMHCA team thanks you in advance for your time and consideration! Together, we can do so much more.
In service, unity, and gratitude,
Bethany Noel Leavitt – Legislative Chair, MeMHCA