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From The President's Perspective
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Take Advantage of Opportunities for 
Professional Involvement in AMHCA
By Judith Bertenthal–Smith, LPC, ALPS
AMHCA President, 2013–2014

In the midst of all that is happening in Washington surrounding the Affordable Care Act, I have been giving the issue of professional identity a great deal of thought. As president of AMHCA, articulating who we are as professional counselors is critical. As the youngest child in the mental healthcare profession, we need to be articulate, consistent, and clear about the quality of our training and educational standards, and the developmental and holistic approach of clinical mental health counseling. 

As the only organization working exclusively for mental health counselors, AMHCA is ready to take on this challenge. One way you can assist in this effort is to become more than a paying member of the organization. Many of us began our involvement at the state chapter level. The relationship between AMHCA and our state chapters is symbiotic: State chapters need to be a known force within their states, ensuring that licensed professional counselors are a recognized and valued entity in providing quality mental healthcare. At the same time, AMHCA is advocating nationally for the profession and assisting state chapters both on national issues and issues that are state-specific. I urge all of you to recruit new members to both your state chapter and AMHCA.

A good way to advocate for the profession is to become involved on an AMHCA committee. The committee structure is tied to the focus of the president, the pressing issues that impact the profession, and the long-term vision of the organization. 

What are some of these pressing issues in 2013?

  • Medicare inclusion
  • Consistency of training and license portability across states
  • Veterans issues
  • Chapter development

All of these issues have a home in our committee structure. Ad-hoc committees are formed to deal with specialized issues. While issues affecting LPCs and veterans are part of established committees, our Director-at-Large LaMarr Edgerson, PsyD, LMFT, Cht, a veteran himself, is serving as chair of the AMHCA Military Interest Network to give increased attention to the special needs of our veterans. 

An additional ad-hoc committee is our By-Laws Revision Committee. AMHCA Southern Region Director Keith Mobley, PhD, LPC, NCC, ACS, and his committee will be reviewing and making recommendations to the board on by-laws changes in order to reflect the growth of the organization. 

Our Public Policy and Legislation Committee (PP&L), chaired by Dan Holdinghaus, LPC, works with AMHCA Associate Executive Director and Director of Public Policy Jim Finley. Jim works tirelessly on Capitol Hill on all legislation affecting LPCs. The PP&L Committee and Jim continue to work with our coalition partners on Tricare and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other legislative issues that affect our profession. Much of their efforts will be to push for Medicare reimbursement for LPCs. This is a critical bread-and-butter issue for our profession. Please watch for the webinars AMHCA will be offering our members surrounding Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

The Professional Development Committee, headed by Judith Harrington, PhD, LPC, LMFT, is the birthplace of AMHCA’s tremendous white papers and the updated, “Clinical Standards for Clinical Mental Health Practice.” As new challenges arise, the committee decides what focus areas to consider.

Deborah Leggett, PhD, LMHC, NCC
, is chairing the Professional Issues Committee, which looks at scope of practice, license portability, and the other multitude of professional issues. 

Obviously, the work of one committee has an impact on the work of other committees. The area of consideration may be the same but the manner of consideration is different.

Our Graduate Student Committee, headed by April Krowel, has monthly conference calls dealing with the special needs and services of these future mental health counselors. It is an opportunity for graduate students to become part of their professional organization and champion the profession. The Graduate Student Committee has been a wonderful steppingstone for some of our now very active members.

The Member Services Committee, once again headed this year by Carol Staben–Burroughs, LCPC, reviews all nominations for the annual awards bestowed at our July Annual Conference. There are available slots on this committee for interested individuals. Carol and her committee would welcome new members, and it is a great place to begin involvement at the national level.

Our new executive director & CEO, Joel Miller, and I both agree that service to chapters needs attention. We will be working with the staff and board to see how we may strengthen the link between our chapters and AMHCA and assist chapters in their day-to-day operation.

The 2013–2014 association year will be a challenging one for our profession. Our ability to practice is at stake. AMHCA will be calling on members to contact their legislators. I urge you to do so and to encourage others to do so as well. Refer to AMHCA’s Public Policy page for updates on issues we need your support on. 

As your president, I am well aware of the scope and importance of the work we do individually and as an organization. The hard work and dedication of staff, the board, and the committees is remarkable; we would not be as strong a voice if it were not for the many who served before us. While we are a young organization and a newer voice in mental healthcare, our commitment is strong and we are well prepared through our education, training, and professionalism.

Contact information for all committee chairs, board members, and office staff can be found in the Leadership Directory on AMHCA’s website. We welcome your input!