President Obama Signs Bill to Add More Mental Health Providers for Veterans

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#Counselors–President Obama recently signed the Military Construction, Veterans
Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill into law. This new law
removed barriers to employment for Licensed Marriage and Family
Therapists (LMFTs) to work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA). This important legislation will significantly improve the
availability of qualified clinicians who can treat veterans seeking
mental health services.

In 2006, a law was enacted to permit the VA to hire LMFTs. However, the
job specifications required LMFT applicants to have graduated from a
program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and
Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Many of the California marriage and
family therapy programs preceded the establishment of COAMFTE and are,
instead, part of regionally accredited institutions. This was an
insurmountable employment barrier for 95% of California’s LMFTs
qualified to treat our nation’s veterans.

The California
Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
(CAMFT), an
organization representing 32,000 Marriage and Family Therapists,
appealed to the VA and advocated for legislation to remove the COAMFTE
requirement and allow LMFTs to serve the rising number of veterans with
mental health needs in the VA.

“California has the largest veteran population in the nation and over
40,000 LMFTs. Given the documented challenges with veterans’ access to
mental health services, CAMFT is pleased to have LMFTs be part of the
solution,” said CAMFT’s Executive Director Jill Epstein.

LMFTs are qualified to treat severe mental illnesses including, but not
limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia,
schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorders,
panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcohol and substance
abuse. Thus, LMFTs are qualified to provide the mental health services
necessary within the Veterans Medical Centers.

According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, 18.5%
of the veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either
major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Nineteen and a half
percent of veterans in these two categories have experienced a traumatic
brain injury.1 Additionally, the Department of Veterans
Affairs estimates that nearly 13,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have
alcohol dependence syndrome.2 These disorders alone have an
enormous impact on the demand for veteran mental health treatment
services. Approximately 50 percent of returning veterans who need
treatment for mental health conditions seek counseling, but only
slightly more than half who receive treatment get adequate care.3
This new legislation is critical in the effort to increase the number of
licensed clinicians that are eligible to treat veterans within the VA
healthcare system.

To assist LMFTs in providing high-quality mental health services to
veterans, CAMFT supports PsychArmor Institute’s program to provide free
on-line training courses to enhance LMFTs’ understanding of the unique
needs of veterans. The on-line library of over 100 educational courses
include subjects such as “Understanding Invisible Wounds of War,”
“Comprehensive PTSD,” “Suicide in the Military,” and many more.
“PsychArmor Institute is proud to have CAMFT promote these training
courses that will be key in preparing LMFTs to more effectively treat
veterans and support their families,” said Marjorie Morrison, CEO and
Founder of PsychArmor Institute.

CAMFT will be reaching out to VA clinics throughout the state to help
facilitate employment opportunities for LMFTs. Epstein added: “The
passing of this law is a great achievement for CAMFT, a great
opportunity for LMFTs, and a great option for our country’s veterans! We
look forward to working with the VA on the implementation of this
historic legislation.”

About California Association of Marriage and
Family Therapists (CAMFT)

CAMFT is an independent professional organization of over 32,000 members
representing Marriage and Family Therapists. It is dedicated to
advancing the profession, maintaining high standards of professional
ethics, upholding the qualifications for the profession, and expanding
awareness of the mental health treatment provided by Marriage and Family
Therapists for individuals, couples, and families. For more information
about CAMFT, follow us on Facebook,
Twitter,
or visit www.camft.org.

About PsychArmor Institute

PsychArmor Institute is a national nonprofit that provides free
education and support to all Americans who work with, live with, or care
for military veterans and their families. PsychArmor recruits nationally
recognized subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses
on relevant issues related to veterans and their families. Our online
training developers use engaging and interactive technology to deliver
this critical information to the learner through a sophisticated
learning management system. In addition, our “Helping You Help Veterans”
support line provides continual assistance and vetted resources to
civilians, ensuring they are armed with all the tools needed to
effectively assist military veterans and their families. For more
information about PyschArmor, follow us on Facebook
or Twitter (@PsychArmor)
or visit PsychArmor.org.

1 Tanielian, Terri, Lisa H. Jaycox, Terry L. Schell, Grant N.
Marshall, M. Audrey Burnam, Christine Eibner, Benjamin R. Karney, Lisa
S. Meredith, Jeanne S. Ringel and Mary E. Vaiana. Invisible Wounds:
Mental Health and Cognitive Care Needs of America’s Returning Veterans.
Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2008. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9336.html

2 National Veterans Foundation “Troubling Veteran Mental
Health Facts and Statistics that Need to be Addressed” (March 25, 2016) http://nvf.org/veteran-mental-health-facts-statistics/

3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; http://www.samhsa.gov/veterans-military-families

Contacts

CAMFT
Eileen Schuster, 858-292-2638
eschuster@camft.org