Dear AMHCA Members and Friends:
I hope you and your love ones are all doing well during this difficult time. This communication will be the first of regular updates on how AMHCA is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of the members.
I worked for associations during the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and during the Great Recession period in 2007-09.
Those were incredibly tough times for our country where both crises had significant economic and social impacts on many Americans.
I learned several important lessons on how organizations operate and manage during those periods and how to lead.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and related stresses it is causing – and will likely cause into the future – will emphasize one key element once again: Associations play a key role in the life of their members as they provide stability and solid organizational structures to act and inform internally and externally about the profession’s needs and challenges.
Stability means having a long-term vision, transparent structures, and the ability to adjust quickly to new situations. Our business model is to address the needs of the members and promote their interests. In this context of this terrible coronavirus outbreak, stability and reliability are significant strengths of AMHCA – and for that matter all associations. In times of uncertainty like now, structures and procedures allow us to be normally fully operational. Our virtual operation and the standard operating procedures we have in place have allowed us not to miss a beat during this period. And to prepare for times like this, you need to have the right team in place. We are fortunate to have such a team that is dedicated to addressing the needs of members – the Governing Board, Committees and Staff.
For example, one such structure we have is a strong committee infrastructure in place that can take on the Learning/Credentialing, Clinical, Ethical, Policy, Financial, and Chapter related aspects to provide value to the members and address challenges of the current pandemic, and charting strategic pathways going forward.
The AMHCA Staff is going the extra mile at this critical time to address the needs of the members. Melissa McShepard on providing membership services and activities and financial acumen, Whitney Meyerhoeffer on providing timely and credible information on COVID-19 through all of our communication platforms, Rebecca Gibson on providing new virtual events and programs on COVID-19 issues and other professional development content, and Gray Otis for coordinating several key projects and work of our committees and special task forces.
For AMHCA it is not just about stability, but reliability.
Reliable information and trust are the ingredients to develop reputation, and allow for the long-term relationships we hope to establish with our members and strategic positioning as a profession and toward policy-makers and other stakeholders.
Those structures form the backbone of AMHCA but are carefully adapted to new situations like the one we find ourselves in today. Those structures provide the necessary continuity, but they also have to adapt to the fact that we live in a world of constant change like the COVID-19 outbreak.
What I also learned from past crises is the need for Adapting Structures.
Adapting structures is more important than ever. That is where our Executive Board can oversee decision-making processes on behalf of the Board in times of crises and where speed of action is of essence.
I am very pleased that we have established several new platforms and forums where our members can find relevant information and exchange views and share content on best practices, tools, methods, and strategies to thrive in today’s environment. I appreciate the full scope and advantages of our on-line discussion groups and communities and other communication vehicles. In a way we have set up informal “virtual support teams” “roundtables” and “cross-segment working groups” by the very nature of these platforms that have expertise in specific areas, and can be accessed by all members to provide problem-solving information and experience. These platforms will become even more valuable to exchange information not only on practice and advocacy initiatives, but on societal and economic developments we will need to anticipate over the coming months and years.
The platforms we have established over the last three years have created a strong sense of community. And especially at this time, we will continue to leverage new technologies in the digital meeting environment to bring timely, credible information to our members. Our job -- and why we ultimately exist -- is to create a strong sense of community, to inform, and to inspire. We will need to build more virtual spaces that are purpose-driven and can replicate aspects on information-sharing, behavioral health marketplace learning, and peer connections.
In order for AMHCA to respond quickly to the current situation and going forward where other unforeseen circumstances will likely occur, we should consider setting up additional ad-hoc working groups and task forces that have the ability to be more nimble, where nimbleness is a virtue and a priority.
To demonstrate that we do care about the health and welfare of our members and the clinical mental health counseling profession, we need to show we have the solid structures in place they expect, that we are reliable, and that we are nimble to reassess those structures and programs we offer. Moreover, estimating and calculating financial and organizational risks for AMHCA and its members will be critically important.
We are here for you and we have the structures in place to address your needs and promote your interests.
On the advocacy front we will work with policymakers and stakeholder groups to make sure to align the clinical mental health counseling profession with the current crisis and on-going threats. It is critically important during this time to pass legislation that will allow clinical mental health counselors to receive recognition under the Medicare program. Otherwise, we will have another crisis on our hands: Less access to care for Medicare beneficiaries with mental health conditions that we have already witnessed over the last 20 years, as we see the number of cases increase due to the pandemic.
Decision-makers will know that CMHCs are on the front-lines at all times as Primary Mental Health Providers. I believe due to this crisis, our overall health care system is going to dramatically change. What will the post COVID-19 environment look like? AMHCA and the clinical mental health counseling profession will be there to help pave the way to a better health care system where mental well-being is a front and center.
I believe this crisis is an opportunity as a moment of service to take AMHCA and the members to new heights – and a foundational goal of associations to improve society. It is a moment to build long-lasting trust and promote our value proposition and provide extraordinary value to the members.
A look Ahead Near Term and Beyond -- Being the Go-to-Place
Of course these are uncertain times. Based on research, associations that stay active in the marketplace in bad times and during economic turmoil, are among the first to emerge when the economy improves – based on authorities from the Harvard Business Review, Fortune Magazine, and McGraw Hill Research.
According to experts, now is the time for AMHCA to redouble our efforts with messaging and offerings that support, enhance, and enable our members to meet the challenges that they are facing. It is a time to take advantage of our competitors disarray or silence by gaining share of mind and share of wallet.
It is the time to tell member prospects how AMHCA and its benefits and products can help them through these tough and uncertain times and help them when everything settles down – and it will. Homebound prospects still need to stay informed and still need education along with opportunities for engagement that AMHCA provides.
It will be incredibly important and essential that membership acquisition, renewal, and reinstatement programs go uninterrupted. In fact, special emphasis will be on ensuring our prospects (and current members) recognize that AMHCA is the go-to-source for information in the field.
And we will not forget to look at our non-dues revenue selling opportunities. We will make an effort to promote non-dues revenue generators such as certification programs, store merchandise, and on-line education offerings. Running “Spring Special” discounts and premiums will help drive traffic to our site.
We will do everything we can to engage prospects so when their budgets allow, they will remember us. We want to be first-in-line when the virus subsides and when things return to normalcy.
We will use this time to continue to look for collaborative opportunities with other professional associations.
We will use this time to make the profession more strategically integrated in the health care system and AMHCA a stronger organization.
We will do everything possible to make AMHCA an essential part of our member’s lives during this period and beyond.
Thank you for all you do for AMHCA, and on the front-lines during this critically important time for our nation!
Joel E. Miller
Executive Director and CEO
American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA)