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AMHCA Advances Recognition for the Profession

By Judith Bertenthal–Smith, LPC, ALPS
AMHCA President, 2013-2014

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens 
can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

      —Anthropologist Margaret Mead

As I write my last Advocate article as AMHCA’s president, my favorite Margaret Mead quote rings true. While we are a small organization, we have spent this year advocating for our profession, our chapters, our members, and those who come to us in need. We have become a presence and a voice in Washington, taken a leadership role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, created new venues to strengthen our chapters, and offered important learning opportunities to our members.

Before I summarize this past year, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the AMHCA board and staff for their tireless work and commitment. Nothing that follows would have been accomplished without their dedication and expertise. Working with these individuals has enriched my life as well as that of our organization. A special thank you to our new executive director & CEO, Joel Miller, as we navigated our new positions together.

For members

  • Special Webinars on Private-Practice Management Issues

The AMHCA webinar series will help CMHCs stay ahead of the curve by learning how to re-vamp a private practice in innovative ways, and how to identify new opportunities to gain new clients and participate in dynamic care-delivery systems.

The first program in the series, “Compliance and Workflow: Top Tips to Protect Your Practice and Your License,” aired on May 22. Learn more about the webinar series.

  • Special Webinars on Clinical Issues
    • A special program series on “The Impact of Emerging Clinical Issues on the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Profession” will air every other month beginning in June.
    • The first in this series is “Forensic Evaluations and Expert Witness Issues.”
    • A list of some of the upcoming topics in both webinar series—the Private Practice Issues series and the Clinical Issues Affecting the Profession—is available at
    • Healthcare Reform and Strategies on Thriving in Today’s Environment
  • Healthcare Reform and Strategies on Thriving in Today’s Environment

Over the last 12 months, The Advocate has run several in-depth articles on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We have highlighted strategies to assist our members in how to position themselves as the ACA is implemented and have provided guidance to those state chapters and members in locales where policymakers have decided not to participate.

AMHCA also issued state chapter press releases customized to several individual states as well as fact sheets for AMHCA members to use with the local media, policymakers, and mental health stakeholders.


    We are planning to create a special section of the AMHCA website devoted to CACREP, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Initially, we have posted AMHCA's testimony and comments on CACREP-related standards, rules, and other issues over the last four years, including:

  • Comment on CACREP Standards (December 23, 2013)
  • AMHCA Proposed Changes to CACREP Draft 2 Standards (December 23, 2013)
  • Lend Your Voice to CACREP Standards Review (September 2, 2013)
  • AMHCA Testimony on VA/TRICARE DoD Workforce Practices (January 8, 2013)
  • Agency Comments Requested on TRICARE Provider Rules (February 23, 2012)
  • TRICARE Rules Authorize Independent Practice for CMHCs (December 27, 2011)
  • Questions and Answers about the VA Job Qualification Standards (September 2010)

For more information, please visit AMHCA's Public Policy page.

We plan to highlight other issues based on questions we receive from members related to Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations on CACREP, AMHCAs efforts at advocating for liberal grandfathering clauses, and literature reviews on CACREP.

Forums for Member Engagement

In the near term, you will see new member communication initiatives under the banner of “AMHCA Forums for Sharing and Learning.” The forums will open up new avenues of communication and significantly increase the opportunity for AMHCA members to engage and dialogue, with the goal of a mutual exchange of information among members—and with external experts—on a variety of cutting-edge topics that affect your individual practice and the clinical mental health counseling profession. Stay tuned for this exciting new member benefit.

For State Chapters

By opening a fresh line of communications with AMHCA’s state chapters, we are demonstrating our intent to re-invigorate our chapter relations activity to better address the needs of the state chapters and promote their interests.

  • Created a new State Chapter Relations operation headed by Renee Kreithen to provide ongoing support and liaison for AMHCA state chapters. The State Chapter Relations operation provides technical assistance to chapters on policy, program, and operations, and states now have direct contact with Renee.
  • Established monthly AMHCA State Chapter Meet-Me Conference Calls with chapter leaders to address the policy, program, and operations of chapters’ needs through expert presenters within and outside the clinical mental health counseling profession.
  • Organized events at the AMHCA Annual Conference related to state chapter annual meetings and chapter events for planning purposes, including how AMHCA can engage chapters in providing materials, speakers, and technical assistance.
  • Our AMHCA Leadership Directory contains a special Google document that is available to serve as a database for additional leadership contact information for use by staff and the board of directors. Quick access to leader information is critically important. When board members ask for a list of chapter leaders in their regions, AMHCA staff are now able to send that information within minutes, and the information can be sorted in many ways. Another advantage of maintaining the information on Google is that the web-based directory is updated in real time.
  • With our new emphasis on state chapter activity, we are receiving requests to begin new chapters in Alabama, Guam, Hawaii, and Alaska.
  • AMHCA’s board and staff have delivered presentations at major state chapter events in Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Utah, Washington, D.C., (twice), and West Virginia.
For Increased Recognition and Visibilty for AMHCA and CMHCs Through New Communication and Public Relations Initiatives
  • AMHCA’s report on Medicaid Expansion—“Dashed Hopes, Broken Promises, More Despair: How the Lack of State Participation in the Medicaid Expansion Will Punish Americans With Mental Illness”—has received widespread publicity, including articles in Newsweek, The Washington Post, KaiserHealth News, Reuters, St. Louis Post Dispatch, and Yahoo News.
  • As a result of the widespread visibility of the “Dashed Hopes” report, AMHCA staff has received several interview requests from radio and television stations, and received significant social media attention on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • The report received significant attention through the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) Twitter account of more than 12,000 healthcare reporters.
  • We have made several presentations on Medicaid Expansion and related healthcare reform issues before major groups such as the invitation-only 29th Annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy in Atlanta, the National Association of Medicaid Directors, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and the Mental Health Liaison Group.
  • The “Dashed Hopes” report has been disseminated at events such as the Alliance for Health Reform briefings and theAnnual Conference of the American Counseling Association.
  • AMHCA has increased its social media presence to bring visibility to AMHCA and clinical mental health counselors as well as to mental health and healthcare stakeholders, policymakers, and decision-makers.
  • Utilizing social media, we are now circulating AMHCA news and Advocate newsletter “teasers” that drive traffic to our website and reach new audiences.
  • Opened a LinkedIn account and reactivated AMHCA’s Twitter page and continued our Facebook presence, which is now steadily growing.
Representing the CMHC Professionat the Federal Level
  • As a result of the visibility of the “Dashed Hopes” report, AMHCA was asked to testify in March before a key congressional panel not only on Medicaid Expansion issues, but on the need for independent Medicare provider recognition, access barriers to mental health services, and Medicaid payment.
  • AMHCA is a key and prominent member of many federal-related coalitions and alliances where we promote and conduct meetings on AMHCA’s bread-and-butter issues: provider recognition vis-à-vis the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, TRICARE/DoD, reimbursement from government and private-sector payers, and purchasers such as managed care plans.
  • We are monitoring recent bills that have been introduced in the House and Senate where the potential exists to include provisions regarding independent provider status for CMHCs under Medicare Part B.
  • We sponsored a special webinar for members—and nonmembers—on Medicare issues in October 2013.
Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • AMHCA participates in quarterly meetings of VA mental health stakeholders and senior VA mental health staff where we are able to press our policy concerns.
  • We meet with the director of the VA Office of Academic Affairs to advocate for increased hiring of interns from the profession. The director has emphasized his strong commitment to recognizing only a national standard for the education and training of all health professions, as well as the importance of supervision of all interns by members of the same profession.
  • We have had numerous visits with House and Senate VA committee and appropriations staff to seek traineeship funding for mental health counseling interns/fellows. Such traineeships are an important fast-start to add more counselors into the VA system. Our coalition has continued to promote action on S.1155/HR.3499, including securing House companion legislation, and it remains a strong candidate for final passage.
Your Board at Work
  • Revised and updated the association’s By-Laws, which will be available online in the near term.
  • Created an “ Orientation to the to the Board” manual for new board members.
  • Revised the “Chapter Grant” application.
  • Initiated more frequent board communications, meetings, and conference calls.
  • Increased opportunities to utilize the expertise of past-presidents into AMHCA.
  • Appointed Dan Edwards to become Southern Region director on July 1 to serve out Keith Mobley’s unexpired term when Keith becomes president-elect.

Once again, it has been an honor to serve as your president, and I leave you in the very capable hands of Steve Giunta. A heartfelt thank-you to, Karen, Keith, Erik, Camille, LaMarr, Laurie, Gale, and Steve. May all AMHCA presidents be as fortunate as I in having such a capable board!