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AMHCA CEO Contributes to High-Level Discussion on Healthcare Reform
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AMHCA CEO Contributes to High-Level Discussion on Healthcare Reform at Carter Center Mental Health Symposium

By Kathleen McCarthy
The Advocate

At the invitation-only, 29th Annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in early November, AMHCA Executive Director & CEO Joel E. Miller gave a well-received address on healthcare reform.

Miller’s speech at The Carter Center in Atlanta was heard by

In the speech AMHCA Executive Director &
CEO Joel E. Miller (above) gave to mental
health leaders at the Rosalynn Carter
Symposium on Mental Health Policy, he noted
that many of the most prominent features of
the ACA “were instrumental in establishing
the centrality of behavioral health services
within the overall healthcare delivery
system—such as the designation of mental
health and addiction services as one of the 10
categories of essential health benefits.”

about 200 national leaders in the mental health field, including U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The HHS Secretary joined former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter in discussing how access to mental healthcare could improve with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). (See page 6 for Part Three of The Advocate series on healthcare reform and its implications for 
mental health counselors.)

AMHCA President-Elect Stephen A. Giunta, PhD, LMHC, NCC, and AMHCA Treasurer Gale Macke also attended the Symposium. (See their remarks in the photo captions on pages 19 and 20.)
John Bartlett, MD, MPH, of The Carter Center thanked Miller for “the significant contributions you made to its success. By all accounts the Symposium itself was one of the best in recent times.” Miller’s remarks were also noted in coverage of the Symposium in several media outlets, including:

The theme of this year’s meeting was, “The Road Ahead: 
Challenges and Opportunities for Behavioral Health Care 
During the Implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” 

The ACA “ushers in a Golden Age for coverage of behavioral health services,” Miller said in his speech, which was on, “The Implications of the Affordable Care Act for Behavioral Health.” In it, he explained the transformative impacts of the ACA coverage expansions for people with mental health conditions, calling the ACA “a major milestone in long-standing efforts to ensure access for all Americans to appropriate, high-quality, and affordable behavioral healthcare.”

To open the second day of the Symposium, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter gave a brief tribute to David Wellstone, son of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who was an instrumental force in the parity legislation that bears his name—The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). That same day, Nov. 8, Sebelius released the final rule related to parity legislation (see article about the final rule on page 14).

See additional photos below of AMHCA leaders and chapter leaders at the Symposium.

“Participating in The Carter Center Symposium on Mental Health Policy was a remarkable experience,” says AMHCA President-Elect Stephen A. Giunta, PhD, LMHC, NCC, shown above with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. “The First Lady was a gracious host and a driving force throughout. The most rewarding moment of the Symposium was the announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the release of long-awaited final rules on the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. 

“AMHCA members should be particularly proud of the role that AMHCA’s leadership had during the event. Our executive director, Joel Miller, was one of the main speakers and very much in demand among participants. As AMHCA president-elect, I had the pleasure of filling in for our president, Judith Bertenthal–Smith, LPC, ALPS, whose daughter was getting married that same weekend. 

“The American Counseling Association’s president, Cirecie West-Olatunji, PhD, LPC, LMFT, was also a participant at the Symposium," said Giunta, "and Gale Macke and I had the pleasure of having dinner with her at The Carter Center.”

During a break in the Mental Health Symposium, AMHCA Treasurer Gale Macke (above left) and AMHCA President-Elect Stephen A. Giunta, PhD, LMHC, NCC, enjoyed touring the The Carter Center, particularly the replica of the Oval Office from the White House under former President Jimmy Carter.  

“A goal for us in attending the Symposium,” says Macke, “was to get Medicare recognition for LPCs.” At the dinner of mental health leaders, she pointed out that, “There are more than 250,000 LPCs in the United States who are not eligible for Medicare reimbursement programs.” This means, she said, that despite healthcare reform and mental health parity, it will be difficult to carry out the objectives of healthcare reform and parity, because there simply aren’t enough covered mental health professionals to treat the increase in the number of people with mental health coverage. 

Macke, who is also the executive director of AMHCA’s Georgia chapter—the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia—is very concerned that clinical mental health counselors do not receive Medicare reimbursement although some other behavioral health providers with less education and training may be covered under Medicare.

AMHCA Executive Director & CEO Joel E. Miller (above) with Jo Abney, NCC, LPC, CAADC, president of AMHCA’s Georgia chapter, the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia.

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