Make Medicare Recognition for Mental Health Counselors Happen

By Joseph Weeks posted 09-29-2017 15:52


Tell your elected officials to pass H.R. 3032 and S. 1879 – the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2017. Tell them the time is now to bring CMHC’s into the Medicare program to address the national opioid crisis and provide access to mental health and substance use services in rural and underserved areas for Medicare beneficiaries 

The Problem: Many Medicare Beneficiaries Do Not Have Access to Mental Health Providers

The elderly and disabled in the Medicare program are often at the highest risk for mental health problems such as depression and suicide. One in four (25%) percent of Medicare beneficiaries have a mental health or substance use condition. 


Many of these beneficiaries have co-morbid medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes and their mental health condition can exacerbate their other illnesses.  These high-cost, high utilizers known as “frequent flyers” tend to use the emergency department more and are hospitalized more often than other seniors – a virtual revolving door of care that significantly increases Medicare’s budget.


Despite the high rates of mental disorders with chronic medical conditions, many Medicare beneficiaries do not have access to a mental health professional because of their remote locations and the shortage of mental health providers who are recognized by Medicare. 


Over the next two decades the number of older adults with mental health and/or substance disorders will nearly double from about 8 million people to about 15 million people. That is staggering growth, and our service systems are not prepared.


The Solution: Medicare Provider Recognition of Clinical Mental Health Counselors

The current situation -- and the impending wave of older adults with mental health conditions entering the Medicare program over the near term cries out for increased work-force capacity – namely Medicare and Medicaid provider recognition of clinical mental health counselors.


You need to tell their story that we diagnose and treat psychological disorders, and you help patients work through key health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and aging issues.   


By assisting clients with depression and substance use, you help older adults to avoid the serious complications associated with untreated mental illness, which can include chronic medical problems like heart disease and diabetes, poverty, isolation, and homelessness.


CMHC’s who serve on the frontlines of our mental health delivery system are armed and ready to provide needed care to elderly adults with mental health and substance use conditions. 


By recognizing CMHCs in the Medicare program, Congress will address many problems including the need to:

  • Address the mental health workforce capacity problem;
  • Address fragmentation and gaps in delivery of mental health care for older Americans and improve quality; and
  • Address our opioid crisis and growing suicide rates among the elderly .

Medicare provider eligibility for clinical mental health counselors is long overdue.

Tell your elected representatives the time to act is now.  Before our ability to address the problem passes as by.

Tell them to pass H.R. 3032 and S. 1879 – the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2017. Tell them the time is now to bring the Medicare program and mental health policies into the 21st century by recognizing clinical mental health counselors as Medicare providers.