*Notice from the American Counseling Association*
For over a decade, the American Counseling Association and its partner organizations have advocated for the successful passage of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R. 432). Although this bill has previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, it has never passed both at the same time. Today we can say that this monumental legislation has passed in both chambers and is on its way to President Biden to be signed into law.
The Mental Health Access Improvement Act will close the gap in federal law that prevents licensed professional counselors from being recognized as Medicare providers. The legislation is expected to give Medicare beneficiaries immediate access to more than 225,000 additional licensed mental health professionals and to help close the widening treatment gap.
We could not have done this on our own! First, we would like to thank our bill sponsors — Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) and John Katko (R-NY-24) and Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) — for their leadership and support. We recognize that the passage of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act is the result of many compromises and steadfast hard work by our sponsors and their staff members. As such, we urge them to remain diligent in their efforts to further support this legislation on its journey to the White House and, ultimately, into law.
We would also like to thank our advocacy partners, especially the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition, whose mission has been to strengthen Medicare beneficiaries’ access to mental and behavioral health care and to help build the provider workforce by forming relationships with congressional offices and galvanizing constituents.
To our ACA member advocates, it was your tireless advocacy work through the years — from marching up to Capitol Hill to sending messages to congressional leaders through our Take Action web page — that helped to push this bill over the finish line. This is truly a result of your labor and unwavering support.
Although we have achieved a hard-fought victory, we still have more work to do. The intent of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act is to increase access to mental health services for the Medicare population, and at ACA, we will make sure it does as it was intended by working hand in hand with the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services and with congressional leaders to create a more accessible pathway to behavioral health services for those in need.