Is the Military Failing on Providing Mental Health Care? Regulations Will Force Mental Health Counselors Out Despite Documented Shortage of Professionals
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GREENSBORO, NC, Feb. 06, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A group of 13 directors of psychological health for Air National Guard units across the U.S.—some of whom are decorated and have military backgrounds themselves—will lose their positions in September 2018.

Why: The U.S. Air Force refuses to grant mental health counselors independent practice authority despite a 2016 RAND report showing 146 vacancies for Air Force mental health professionals. The Air Force decision follows from the Department of Defense’s unwillingness to create a uniform privileging and credentialing standard for mental health counselors in spite of the Army and TRICARE granting this authority. Congress has repeatedly requested that the Department of Defense establish a uniform standard for these 140,000 licensed professional counselors nationwide to increase access to mental health and addictions services.

Background: The Department of Defense does not recognize all licensed mental health professionals. The Institute of Medicine issued a 2010 report recommending the military grant independent practice authority to mental health counselors. However, the Defense Department has failed to create a military occupational specialty for mental health counselors, and individual services continue to operate from antiquated policies that limit employment opportunities and practice rights. These policies leave service members without access to 25 percent of the behavioral health workforce and will force the termination of the 13 Air National Guard directors of psychological health. The policies have implications for mental health counselors working in the Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

Ingrid Herrera-YeeComment