(Photo:Flickr/Senate Democrats)

Among the bills presented at the Oct. 30 Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing was the Rural Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. The bill, also known as S.1155, was partially crafted by the American Counseling Association and would “provide for advance appropriations for certain information technology accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to include mental health professionals in training programs of the Department, and for other purposes.”

“Too many veterans in rural areas go untreated,” said Sen. Jon Tester, (D-MT), the bill’s sponsor. Tester urged Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the rest of its members to take steps to address the “lack of qualified mental health professionals working for the VA,” citing the fact that licensed professional counselors and licensed marriage and family therapists make up 40 percent of the mental health private practice workforce but only 200 spots in the VA.

Last year, ACA’s Public Policy Department launched an aggressive media campaign emphasizing the need for the VA to hire more mental health professionals.

“ACA is incredibly grateful to Senator Tester for sponsoring a bill that will empower and enhance the counseling profession,” says Art Terrazas, director of public policy. “The VA has been falling behind in their efforts to recruit and obtain all available mental health clinicians, but we believe that S.1155 will change this.”

Hopefully before the end of the year the the bill will have a “mark-up,” where the committee will decide whether to send it onto the full.

For more information, email aterrazas@counseling.org

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