Letter to the Editor:
I want to address two bills that are up for vote with the Senate, S. 828, and House of Representatives, H.R. 432. These bills, “The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021”, would recognize Licensed Professional Counselors (L.P.C.), Marriage and Family Counselors, and Clinical Mental Health Counselors and reimburse payment for Medicare patients receiving treatment for mental health issues.
Right now, without the approval of the bills, a person who turns 65 years of age would be automatically terminated for treatment if L.P.C.s are seeing them. I want to point out that this is not the first time these bills have made it to the House of Representatives and the Senate. Similar bills have been introduced for the past several years and voted down. They have the backing of several professional counseling organizations, the American Counseling Association and the National Board for Certified Counselors, to name a couple.
I am a member of the American Counseling Association and have worked with inmates for several years. Mental health covers a wide range of issues, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few. Suicide, addiction, and other mental illnesses are affecting each family. The mental health crisis continues to increase with fewer professionals approved to help through Medicare Plan B.
Medicare Plan B will only allow certain professionals to provide treatment once a person turns 65, including psychiatrists, Psychologists, Clinical Social Workers, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants. There is a significant problem in rural communities like Henderson. Half of these professionals do not practice here, while the other half struggle to maintain their current clients. We can relate to the struggle of visiting our family doctor’s office, especially since Covid-19 began.
Marriage and Family Counselors and Clinical Mental Health Counselors are highly qualified professionals capable of helping our families and loved ones. These professionals are required to pass three examinations for licensure in the state of Tennessee, the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam (CPCE), the National Counselor Exam (N.C.E.), and the Tennessee Judicial Exam, which covers laws in the state of Tennessee. These professionals must have over 3,000 hours of supervised training, complete a practicum and internship before graduation, and earn a master’s degree with 60 hours of credit.
In a letter I have written to Senator Blackburn, I included the following statistics:
The mental health of adults over 65 affects every family in the United States, either directly or indirectly. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “More than 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States” (D.C.D., 2022). Just under four million people will turn 65 in a year. The U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, lists the total population at 325 million, with 54,074,028 people 65 years or older. The number of people over 65 will grow in 2034 to 77.7 million per U.S. Census Bureau (U.S.C., 2022). The National Alliance on Mental Health reports, “Depression affects more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 years or older” (NAMI, 2013). This statistic was taken in 2013, two years after the beginning of baby boomers turning 65 years old.
Since 2013, over 20,000,000 more adults have reached the age of 65. This data does not include other mental health disorders like substance abuse. A study by John Hopkins stated, “Mental Health Disorders account for several of the top causes of disability in established market economies” (John Hopkins Medicine, 2019). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the labor force growth rate of the 65- to the 74-year-old age group is expected to be about 55, and the labor force growth rate of the 75-and-older age group is expected to be about 86 percent; part-time workers over 65 years old is 40%; self-employed adults over 65 is 16.42%” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). These statistics demonstrate the need for the House of Representatives and Senate to approve H.R. 423 and S. 828.
I respectfully ask for your support and assistance in making a call or emailing our representatives in Tennessee to co-sponsor and support these bills. These bills are not Democratic or Republican but should help the American people. Mental Health does not know political parties but affects millions of American people. Here is the contact information and request to support the bills:
Senator Marsha Blackburn Jackson Office 731-660-3971 Washington DC Office 202-224-4944
Senator Bill Hagerty
Jackson Office 731-234-9358
Washington DC Office 202-224-3344
Mark E. Green House of Representatives TN 7th District
Clarksville, TN Office 931-266-4483
Franklin, TN Office 629-223-6050