Clinical mental health counselors (CMHCs) are primary mental health providers who offer high-quality, comprehensive, integrative, cost-effective services across the lifespan. Uniquely qualified licensed clinicians, CMHCs are trained to provide mental health assessment, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. CMHCs promote wellness and human development through early intervention and personal empowerment.

Advocates for life

Clinical mental health counselors are people who have a passion for improving the lives of others. To a mental health counselor, a fulfilling, happy and rewarding life are not only obtainable, but they are attributes that every person has a right to no matter where they have come from. A counselor has the skills to lead a client through trauma, substance abuse, disabilities or any other kind of barrier to a productive life.

By looking at a client in a holistic way a counselor can get to the complex roots of an individual’s struggles. Counselors work with clients on everything from anger management to trauma and every little thing in between. They have a unique understanding that not only is happiness dependent on working through the hard stuff, but it is also dependent on health problems, poverty, isolation, unemployment and a host of other complications.

“The situation cries out for increased workforce capacity — namely Medicare and Medicaid Provider Recognition of CMHCs.”

Challenges going forward

Right now we should be focused on increasing recognition of clinical mental health counselors in the major federal health programs including: Medicare, Veterans Affairs, DoD/TRICARE and Medicaid. Currently, Medicare and Medicaid do not reimburse CMHC’s for services rendered to beneficiaries in these public insurance programs. It will be incredibly important for CMHCs to be recognized providers in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The population of older adults in the U.S. will nearly double over the next 20 years. If the prevalence of mental health disorders among older adults remains unchanged, over the next 15-20 years the number of older adults with behavioral health conditions (i.e., mental health and/or substance disorders) will nearly double from about 9 million people to 18 million people.

CMHCs can step in

Unless new public policies are implemented, the impending “silver tsunami” of behavioral health conditions that older adults will experience will overwhelm our ability — governments, communities and family caregivers — to address the mental health and medical needs of older persons.

Suicides among seniors are increasing and there is and lack of access to mental health services in rural counties. The situation cries out for increased workforce capacity — namely Medicare and Medicaid Provider Recognition of CMHCs.

CMHC Medicare reimbursement would be a value-added benefit that would improve outcomes for older adults with chronic diseases and mental health conditions.