Here are some updates on things happening in Washington that directly affect MFTs:
The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2015 (HR 2759)
On June 12, Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY) introduced The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2015 (HR 2579). This bill wouldcover marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under Medicare part B. This bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA). AAMFT is working with a coalition of partners, including CAMFT, NBCC, AMHCA and the ACA on a coordinated effort to increase support for the legislation. We are also planning a grassroots push in the next few months to ask AAMFT members to reach out to their legislators and add their voice. We expect a senate companion bill to be introduced within the next few weeks by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
DOCs for Veterans Act of 2015
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced his VA workforce bill the Delivering Opportunities for Care and Services or DOCs for Veterans Act (S. 1676) on June 24. The bill does a number of positive things for the MFT professions, including:
- A statutory mandate to include MFTs in the VA health professional trainee program WITH equal apportioning of the funding among all professions. This would expand the VA pilot program and mandate greater fairness in the funding. It is a legal mandate versus the prior report language urging our participation and equal apportionment.
- A report from VA on the MFT and Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor (LPMHC) workforce that includes:
a) The number of MFTs/LPMHCs employed by VA;
b) The number of MFTs/LPMHCs expected in the trainee program;
c) A comparison of the eligibility requirements of MFTs/LPMHCs versus other mental health professions;
d) The VA’s objectives, goals and timing to increase MFTs/LPMHCs employment;
e) A report on the actions taken by the VA to work with OPM on the creation of occupational series for MFTs/LPMHCs along with a timeline
No Child Left Behind
AAMFT has met with Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) office regarding increased clarity in ensuring MFTs are specifically named on the list of professionals identified in the NCLB as qualified to provide mental health services. Federal law currently omits family therapists from the list of professionals identified in the NCLB as qualified to provide mental health services. This omission causes states to develop laws and regulations that exclude MFTs from positions within the school system.
AAMFT has recently lent its support to a number of important mental health bills in Congress
Children’s Recovery from Trauma Act
The bill would reauthorize and strengthen the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI), a national network of child trauma centers that works with children and families who are exposed to a wide range of traumatic experiences.
National Mental Health No Stigma Week
The bill would designate the first full week in May as “National Mental Health No Stigma Week”. Approximately one in four adults experience mental illness in a given year (National Institute of Mental Health), yet misconception and misinformation have left many people with mental illness afraid to talk about their experiences or to seek help. By reducing the stigma, we also reduce the barriers to health-seeking behavior and send the message that mental illness is like any other illness.
Stop Child Abuse in Residential Treatment Programs for Teens Act
The bill would prevent child abuse in programs that treat children with emotional, behavioral, developmental, substance abuse, or mental health problems. Boot camps, wilderness programs, behavior modification, and other types of residential programs are often a last-resort treatment option for children and teenagers with major behavioral challenges. Unfortunately, many are subject to little to no accountability to ensure that participants are shielded from abuse.
Rep. Lieu introduces bill to ban conversion reparative therapy
Recently, Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced HR 2450 The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. The bill is designed to make it illegal for anyone to offer, for a fee, conversion (or reparative therapy) which tries to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. It would do so by having the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) classify it as “fraud” if the service is offered for a fee.
The bill is specifically designed to go after the vast majority of practitioners of this practice who are unlicensed (over 70%). At the state level, AAMFT has supported efforts to make a licensed mental health practitioner who engages in this practice to be subject to disciplinary action from their provider’s licensing entity.
AAMFT has stated unambiguously that conversion and reparative therapy is a dangerous practice that has no basis in science. AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available.
Members are also expected to practice in accordance with applicable statutes and regulations; some states have taken steps to prohibit SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) with minor clients. In addition, all members of AAMFT are bound by the AAMFT Code of Ethics.
While we have concerns with the way the federal bill is structured, AAMFT has met with Rep. Lieu’s staff regarding the legislation and continues to work with them moving forward to strengthen the bill.
For more information on AAMFT’s various positions on couples and families, reparative/conversion therapy and the nonpathologizing of homosexuality, see our Position on Couples.