Tony Onorato

Tony Onorato, MA, LPC, ALPS


PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCEAOnorato200px.png


For over 23 years I have owned and operated APO Counseling, a small clinical group practice in Morgantown, WV. As many of us who work in similar capacities are keenly aware, running a practice challenges us to be consummate professionals with every client, every day. Not only do we have to remain clinically sharp, we must run the business function of the practice, such as dealing with all the insurance related reimbursement so that the practice not only survives, it thrives. Thinking strategically to adapt to clinical advances and shifts in laws is a skill I’ve honed over the years.




ASSOCIATION EXPERIENCE

I have been a member of the West Virginia Licensed Professional Counseling Association since the late 90’s when I helped reconstitute the association. I found it important to be involved in shaping the direction of our profession, in large part because it directly impacted my livelihood. I served on the WVLPCA Board in many capacities through the years, including a couple stints as president.

Serving on the WVLPCA Board connected me to AMHCA. I became more aware of what AMHCA stands for and its function at the national level. That elevated for me when a fellow WVLPCA Board member and good friend, Judie Bertenthal-Smith, was elected and served as AMHCA President in 2013-2014. I soon became involved in AMHCA Leadership Summits and have worked on ad-hoc committees to solve some of the organizational challenges that AMHCA faces. My role currently is serving as AMHCA’s Director-at-Large.



VISION

The reality is that AMHCA is at a crossroad. Over the last 5-6 years AHMCA has seen a decrease in revenue because several budget allocations haven’t panned out as planned and an overall decline in membership. Lack of funding created a leadership vacuum this last year after ED Joel Miller retired because there just wasn’t enough revenue to adequately fill the position. All of that is a direct result of AMHCA’s struggle to come to grips with some of the realities it faces regarding its value proposition in the marketplace for memberships and CE offerings, to name a few.

I know everyone wants AMHCA to have a robust advocacy and lobbying effort at the federal level, particularly regarding Medicare inclusion for CMHCs, and by extension,MFTs, in addition to a multitude of other issues that pop up on a regular basis. The challenge is that while healthcare in general comprises expenditures of close to 20% of the US GDP, mental health is only a sliver of that, akin to a budgetary rounding error. That focuses policy makers’ priorities on the big-ticket items and makes it difficult to gain traction even when there is a true combined effort of the entire mental health sector, let alone the counseling profession on its own or AMHCA by itself. We are going to need to become a much bigger fish.

With over 140,000 clinical mental health counselors in the nation, the source of AMHCA’s problems aren’t really a lack of membership numbers or not enough attendance for CE offerings. AMHCA’s problem is alignment. AMHCA spends a lot of energy working to collaborate with almost every other organization except its own chapters. In order to strengthen AMHCA’s voice, fiscal and strategic alliances must include the chapters who are far more in tune with the needs of CMHCs on the ground. I propose to build chapter alliances by:

  1. Combine local and national resources to enhance membership benefits
  2. Improve administrative and professional advocacy support to chapter by the national board
  3. Increase the number of chapters
  4. Target membership numbers at 30%-40% of Licensed CMHCs in each chapter within 2-3 years
This is a heavy lift and will require strategy, energy and commitment, all of which I want to lead for the good of the profession and the health of AMHCA.


AWARDS AND HONORS

  • 2021 –American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB) President’s Award
  • 2016–2017 -AMHCAProfessional Service and Leadership to a Chapter

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matter compared to what lies within us.” Henry Stanley Haskins