Rural Mental Health Gets Help from New Legislation

In the mental health care professions, there is a vast collection of specialties ranging from a focus on specific events or periods in life to different kinds of care. The great diversity of concentrations and applications within the field can achieve great things for clients and helps to propel the industry toward greater breakthroughs with collaboration and the benefits of a variety of perspectives. But when it comes to regulation surrounding mental health care, the distinctions between titles, degrees, and licensure can sometimes get caught up in misunderstandings or misapplications by legislators. One of the largest hubs of mental health care legislation in the United States is the Medicare program, which aims to provide services to many financially disadvantaged citizens, especially the elderly.

Until recently, America’s rural areas were faced with a piece of Medicare regulation that didn’t particularly make sense for their unique situations. The rules for the program stated that only psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and clinical nurse specialists were able to bill Medicare for their services. While this may seem perfectly agreeable in many major metropolitan areas, a great deal of out-of-the-way places across the nation struggled to reconcile the rule with the fact that there simply weren’t any professionals with those specific credentials in their area. Rather, they relied on family and marriage therapists as well as licensed professional counselors to provide quality mental health care.

A new piece of legislation introduced by Senator Pat Roberts, a republican from Kansas, proposes to amend this rule by allowing therapists and counselors to bill the Medicare program for their services at the same rate of pay as previously approved professionals. While the bill still has a ways to go through the lawmaking process, many hope that it will succeed and form an important piece of the complex puzzle of national mental health care, helping to clear up legal confusions about the industry and its many facets at the same time.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • MAX

    MAX

    June 10th, 2009 at 6:04 AM

    Great news…but don;t ya think the services of counselors and therapists are just as much needed in non-rural locations and that both these professions whoulc be granted equal reimbursement from Medicare/medicaid?!!!

  • Holly

    Holly

    June 10th, 2009 at 8:52 AM

    While I am glad to hear that rural areas are going to benefit from some of these new regulations I think this just once again points to the disparity of services witnessed throughout this country and again simply highlights the overall greater need for healthcare overhaul.

  • Robyn

    Robyn

    June 11th, 2009 at 3:37 AM

    Rural towns do not often make life easy. I grew up in one and would have rather died than admit to others that I needed help, especially anything of the mental health variety. All of the yahoos in my town would have called me crazy! So I am happy to see that maybe gaining access to some of these services will now be easier and that hopefully you will not be so flooded with shame if you have to seek them out.

  • Cole

    Cole

    June 12th, 2009 at 3:49 AM

    It is about time!

  • Thera

    Thera

    June 13th, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    I’m glad to see rural areas get the help they need.

  • Melinda

    Melinda

    June 14th, 2009 at 8:42 AM

    This is something that has been needed for so long and I am glad to see that many in rural areas are now going to benefit from increased levels of service. It is in isolated areas like these where people and their needs are so often overlooked and neglected yet where they often need help the most. I think that for many it could be quite depressing to live so alone and this could help them to deal better with some of those struggles that they could be facing.

  • Erica

    Erica

    June 16th, 2009 at 3:07 PM

    How do you attract qualified professionals to these areas when there are so many of them who only want to make a name for themselves in larger settings? I doubt that there are many rural towns that are able to offer very many incentives to professionals to live and work there. Not that they do not have a lot to offer but sometimes they just cannot compete monetarily with the larger markets, and they sure as heck are not going to offer them the high profile exposure that many seek today.

  • Arielle

    Arielle

    June 17th, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    I live in a Rural area and I am happy to hear that legistlation is passing this. I hope to see more in my area.

  • Dot

    Dot

    June 18th, 2009 at 12:11 PM

    With the Obama administration now in power I think that many more of us who live in rural areas will begin to see an overall improvement in the quality and quantity of healthcare that we have access to. For too long people living in these rural areas of the country have had no voice- but now there are powerful people lining up to be that voice for us and I think that this is a great thing. Yes it is sad that it has taken this long to start getting some of these very basic needs met but this is a great start, and i think that I am speaking for people in rural areas everywhere when I say that we will take it.

  • Candi

    Candi

    June 21st, 2009 at 8:33 AM

    Way to go!! Great to finally hear the rural area is getting what is long overdue.

  • Charles

    Charles

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:47 AM

    Hope that as things start to get better in these rural areas that people just do not forget about the new programs or allow them to lose funding as is so often the case.

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