Blog Viewer

Addressing the Opioid Crisis through Medicare Recognition of Mental Health Counselors

By Joel Miller posted 10-27-2017 14:12


This week, Representative Richard Neal (D-MA-1) has introduced H.R.4097 -- The Medicare Beneficiary Opioid Addiction Treatment Act.

The new House bill would require Part D coverage of medication assisted treatment (MAT), including sub-oxone and buprenorphine for seniors with opioid addiction.

We are reaching out to the Congressman and his staff at this time to highlight that outpatient mental health counseling is an essential component of MAT.

We are pointing out that segments from the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) National Practice Guidelines For Use Of Medications in the Treatment of Addiction Involving Opioid Use emphasize:

  1. “Psychosocial treatment should be implemented in conjunction with the use of buprenorphine in the treatment of opioid use disorder.”
  2. “Psychosocial treatment is recommended in conjunction with any pharmacological treatment of opioid use disorder.”
  3. “At a minimum, psychosocial treatment should include the following: psychosocial needs assessment, supportive counseling, links to existing family supports, and referrals to community services.”
  4. “Treatment planning should include collaboration with qualified behavioral health care providers to determine the optimal type and intensity of psychosocial treatment and for renegotiation of the treatment plan for circumstances in which patients do not adhere to recommended plans for, or referrals to, psychosocial treatment.”
  5. “Psychosocial treatment is generally recommended for patients who are receiving opioid agonist treatment (methadone or buprenorphine).”


We continue to advocate that the current Medicare mental health workforce is struggling just to address the current incidence of clinical depression and anxiety among Medicare recipients. It’s highly unlikely that there are sufficient boots on the ground to provide the supportive mental health counseling called for in the ASAM guidelines if Rep. Neal’s MAT bill passes.  

AMHCA is requesting that Representative Neal consider our language to allow Medicare Reimbursement for Mental Health Counselors embodied in H.R. 3032, by adding Mental Health Counselors to Medicare in H.R. 4097, as an essential part of the solution to the rising opioid addiction among seniors.

AMHCA is looking at every opportunity and legislative vehicle to include mental health counselors.

We are very encouraged that we now have 32 sponsors for our House bill but we need more support and we encourage you to go to our website link just below and use our materials to contact your Representative from your legislative district to urge the member of Congress to sposnsor or vote for H.R. 3032.  Your voice is critical to passage of the bill.

And for your information, please see this recent article on mental health and aging.