Washington Update

ACA asks TRICARE to clarify, adjust counselor certification

Scott Barstow & Jessica Eagle December 1, 2012

Counselors across the country are trying to become certified under new requirements for participation in TRICARE, the health care program operated by the Department of Defense (DoD) for active-duty military personnel, dependents and retirees. In some cases, the process appears to be working, but many counselors are running into problems. This is bad news both for counselors and for TRICARE beneficiaries, who need better access to mental health services.

DoD’s rules state that during a transition period lasting through the end of 2014, counselors can become certified for TRICARE if they have a counseling degree from a regionally accredited program, pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), are licensed and meet supervision requirements. (During the transition period, counselors with a degree from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs can be certified if they have passed either the NCMHCE or the National Counselor Examination.) Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, counselors will only be certified for TRICARE participation if they have a counseling degree from a CACREP-accredited program, pass the NCMHCE and meet supervision requirements.

Many counselors are having problems with the supervision requirements. TRICARE is requiring two years/3,000 hours of post-master’s supervised experience, obtained from a licensed professional counselor. Because counseling is a relatively young mental health profession, many state licensure laws recognize supervision hours conducted under the supervision of a psychologist, psychiatrist or clinical social worker. Consequently, many counselors would not meet the supervision requirements as specified in DoD’s interim final rule.

More problematic than the supervision requirements, however, is that some counselors are being told they will not be certified now if they do not meet the
2015 requirements (degree from a CACREP-accredited program and passage of the NCMHCE) because TRICARE won’t recognize them after the transition period ends.

The American Counseling Association has written the DoD asking that it clarify to TRICARE contractors and administrators that counselors meeting the transition period requirements will continue to be recognized as providers in 2015 and beyond. In addition, the letter asks that TRICARE allow counselors to become certified if they meet the education criteria by the end of 2014 but complete the examination and supervision requirements later. ACA’s letter, which is posted at counseling.org/publicpolicy, also encourages TRICARE to recognize all supervision hours accepted by the individual counselor’s state licensure board.

If you have questions, comments or information about TRICARE certification of counselors, contact Scott Barstow with ACA at sbarstow@counseling.org or 800.347.6647 ext. 234.

ACA stepping up coalition work on education issues

ACA has increased its participation in coalition efforts supporting education funding and improved student outcomes. In October, ACA attended the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) Gala, where speakers including Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed a packed room of educators and education interest group representatives. CEF presented Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) with awards recognizing their dedicated work to improve education funding and policies at the federal level.

Since 2010, ACA has been a partner and supporter of the College Board National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA) “Own the Turf” campaign. NOSCA recently released its second national survey, which takes the pulse of the school counseling profession. The first national survey in 2011, “Counseling at a Crossroads,” found that school counselors were at a point at which they could either become central to student academic achievement in schools or remain on the sidelines as new education efforts ramped up. The 2012 national survey, “True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness,” provides powerful evidence that school counselors and their administrators know how to plot the course of their students’ college and career success. However, significant barriers stand in the way of real progress. The survey identifies barriers such as a lack of focus, training, accountability and resources for counselors, but says that school districts, university programs, public policy and professional organizations can help to overcome these barriers. To read the report, go to counseling.org/publicpolicy. If you have any thoughts on the survey, or input for ACA’s School Counseling Task Force, email Jessica Eagle in ACA’s public policy office at jeagle@counseling.org.

Finally, ACA has joined the America’s Promise Alliance, founded by Gen. Colin Powell. The alliance is the nation’s largest partnership of businesses, nonprofits and other organizations dedicated to 1) ensuring that children get the support they need to succeed, 2) slashing high school dropout rates and 3) helping students graduate ready for college and the 21st-century workforce. Alliance members agree to support “Five Promises” for young people: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others. School counselors are a critical component of this work, and ACA will be promoting school counseling’s role to its partners in the America’s Promise Alliance. In February, ACA will attend the alliance’s Grad Nation Summit, which will focus on successful local, state and national education initiatives.

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