CAMFT Celebrates Huge Federal Victory!

Jonathan Flier, LMFT

From Jill Epstein, Executive Director of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists:

LMFTs and CAMFT have finally won a long battle permitting all California LMFTs to be eligible for employment at the VA.

For decades, CAMFT has been lobbying to allow LMFTs to serve the rising number of veterans with mental health needs. It was not until 2006 that a law was enacted permitting the VA to hire LMFTs. After much prodding by CAMFT, the job specifications were finally issued in September, 2010. However, they included a requirement that an LMFT applicant must have graduated from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).

This became an insurmountable barrier to employment since 95% of the 40,000 LMFTs in California did not go to a school with a COAMFTE-accredited program! (Many of the California MFT programs preceded the establishment of COAMFTE and are, instead, part of regionally accredited institutions.)

President Obama signed into law a bill that allows an LMFT to be eligible for employment in the VA if he/she:
(1) Has a Masters or higher degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, or a related field, from a regionally accredited institution;
(2) Is licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in a State and possesses the highest level of licensure offered from the State; and
(3) Has passed the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board Examination in Marital and Family Therapy or a related examination for licensure administered by a State. (Note: California is the only state that administers its own licensing exam.)

As a state with half of the country’s LMFTs and 1/5 of the country’s veterans, CAMFT has been tenaciously acting as the lone voice on this issue for the past few years. This change in law is the result of the efforts of the CAMFT Board, staff and, especially, our members who have repeatedly responded to calls to action over the years.

This is a great achievement for CAMFT, a great opportunity for LMFTs, and a great option for our country’s Veterans! CAMFT President Patricia Ravitz and Executive Director Jill Epstein look forward to working with the VA on the implementation of this historic legislation.

Other News from the CAMFT Website:

Assembly Bill 1863 and Assembly Bill 1808 Signed by Governor Brown.

CAMFT’s AB 1808 was Signed by the Governor
CAMFT-sponsored AB 1808 (Minors: mental health treatment or counseling services) has been signed by the Governor! This bill will allow MFT Trainees to see minors age 12 or older without parental consent, in certain circumstances. To learn more click here.

Another CAMFT sponsored bill, AB 1863, authored by Assemblymember Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg and signed by Governor Brown, adds Marriage and Family Therapists as providers at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Rural Health Clinics (RHC). Many Californians will now have greater access to mental health care. LMFTs look forward to collaborating with the professional teams at the centers.

As of January 1, 2017, LMFTs will be added to the list of prospective payment system (PPS) reimbursable providers to fill vacant behavioral health provider positions at FQHCs and RHCs and help to further primary care integration.

Many of the clinics have unfilled behavioral healthcare positions and they are eager to include LMFTs in their future recruitment efforts. Medi-Cal funds these services and is regulated by the Federal Medicaid program provisions. CAMFT will monitor the implementation of this legislation and inform members of further developments.

Thank you to the thousands of members who sent emails urging the Governor to sign this important legislation!