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From The President's Perspective
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By Karen Langer, LMHC
AMHCA President, 2012–2013

During one of my calls with AMHCA    committee chairs this past month, a comment from one of the chairs really stuck with me: 

“The Annual Conference really energizes our committee members, and by the end of the conference everyone is ready to go home and get to work. But then we all head back and get busy with our practices and our lives, and the time slips away.”
What struck me was the reminder that members of AMHCA’s committees do want to make a difference, and it is important not to let that energy stall. This is not an easy task, as our members cover a large geographic area and are busy with clients, local issues, and their own self-care. Getting a committee to be functional and effective can be daunting. So, I look to our active committees and identify what they are doing right. 

NOV. 1, 2012: As November begins, many thousands of people are dealing with the harsh aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The thoughts of AMHCA's board and staff are with the victims of the storm and with the mental health professionals who are part of the disaster response, as well as those who will treat people affected by the storm in their clinical practices.
First, we find people who are not only interested in the topic that the committee addresses, but who are also willing to make the commitment to do the work. And, since my strategy is to ask people who meet these criteria to serve on AMHCA committees, I am pleased to report that I have found this strategy to be effective. 

Next, each committee or committee chair determines a focus as well as a strategy to attain the committee’s goals. We have identified strong leaders for our committees who make all the difference in committee success. 

Then the work can begin. And it already has.

At AMHCA’s Annual Conference in July in Orlando, I heard three messages loud and clear: 

  • Veterans,
  • License portability, and 
  • Reimbursement. 

It is important to me that we charge ahead and keep that energy from the conference flowing to make progress in these areas. 

In looking at these topics, it also became clear to me that most of them overlap and intersect with each other, and different aspects of the same issue can be addressed by different committees. 

Coming directly out of Orlando, the board formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Veterans Issues under the direction of Director-at-Large LaMarr Edgerson, PsyD, LMFT. LaMarr has started the conversation to first identify what the issues are and develop a plan.  

We cannot discuss veterans issues without also looking at legislation, licensure, and reimbursement. AMHCA’s Public Policy and Legislation Committee, chaired by Dan Holdinghaus, LPC, is an example of how two committees work on different aspects of the same issue. Both committees continue to work with our coalition partners on TRICARE and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in addition to multiple other legislative issues. Check the AMHCA website for updates on all the pieces of legislation we are following.  

It has also became evident to me that with the discussions of licensure portability, state differences in scope of practice, ability to do assessment, and reimbursement challenges, we needed to resurrect the Professional Issues Committee. Joan Normandy–Dolberg, LPC, has agreed to chair this committee, and we have assembled a solid group of committee members with varied perspectives and experiences. 

Although the Professional Issues Committee could take many possible avenues, we ultimately decided to focus on the issue of license portability. The committee’s first task will be to look at what the barriers really are to portability, and what other professions have done to help mediate these types of problems without getting into turf wars or creating additional problems. Not a small task, but hopefully the end result will be an understanding of the process needed on both a state and national level to move toward a resolution.

AMHCA’s DSM Task Force, chaired by Gary G. Gintner, PhD, continues to follow and comment on the new standards for the draft fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)—which again impact reimbursement. 

Our Professional Development Committee, under the tutelage of Stephen Brady, PhD, continues to be productive. Last year, the committee focused on updating AMHCA’s “Clinical Standards for Clinical Mental Health Practice.”

This year, the committee will focus on developing a series of white papers around clinical issues. The first will look at technology-assisted counseling. While the information contained in the final product is of course tremendously important, as a member of the committee, I have found that the discussion around the topics and the synthesis of the information is equally important. 

Grab an Oar and Let’s Pull Together

As I periodically write an update for a chapter newsletter about all that AMHCA is doing, or write a welcome address for a state conference, I am often overwhelmed with the immensity of my role and what this organization is able to accomplish. With limited (but amazing) staff, much of what does get done at AMHCA is through the work of the volunteers on our amazing committees.

I was reminded recently by a friend and colleague to, “Delegate, girlie”—a welcome reminder that the work of the organization is a group effort. It is not my job to take on everything, but to identify and nurture our wonderful volunteers who can and do accomplish so much.

Check out our list of committees and state chapters, and consider lending your talent and time to our efforts to advance our profession.