The first two paragraphs were written in the fall of 1999. They are an important part of the history of the organization and the excitement for what was accomplished. Therefore, I choose to leave them as Suzanne Phillips, our historian in celebration of our 20th Anniversary, reported them!
“You fought the battle and won the war, …Congratulations! Job well done! …You are a fighting force for our profession. Thank you for every letter, call, prayer…” These were words used by Pam Stowers, MCMHCA President, January 1997-1999, and Clinical Chair, Government Relations, for the Mississippi Counseling Association (MCA), in an announcement to Licensed Professional counselors (LPCs) dated June 29, 1999. The announcement informed LPCs that on June 22, 1999, the State Insurance Management Board approved adding both Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) to the State and Public School employees Health Insurance Plan.
This action by the State Insurance Management Board represented a major step for MS LPCs in the quest for parity with other mental health professionals, in insurance reimbursement matters. The other biggest winner was the 190,000 State and Public School Employees who can now choose among qualified mental health professional, based on their own need. This Board action directly followed 18 months of hard work by MCMHCA members and Provider Task Force Members. Congratulations and thank you to each and every person who helped with this tremendous effort. Our appreciation is extended to MCA for their continuing support and generosity in providing us with the services of Lobbyist Clare Hester. We are very grateful for her masterful efforts on our behalf. We are also grateful to MCA for the Legislative grant awarded in 1997, and the Advocacy grant awarded in 1998, to assist wit this effort. Pam Stowers wrote both grants.
Leading to this tremendous success were other equally important and necessary successes. In 1982, Suzanne Phillips authored the original draft of the Professional Counselor Licensure Bill. House Bill # 325 became law, effective on July 1, 1985, and provided for licensing of Professional Counselors in Mississippi. It also laid the groundwork for establishment of the Mississippi State Board of Examiners for Licensed Professional Counselors, to grant licenses, and to regulate LPCs. Governor Bill Allain appointed the first Board members. Without Licensure, there would have been no basis upon which to request third party payments and so all efforts towards such insurance reimbursements would have been meaningless.
It didn’t take very long for newly licensed LPCs to realize that in order to make a living in counseling, that the payments must come from some group other than their clients, and that the answer must be insurance. Thus MCMHCA’s quest for third party payments for insu4ed clients was begun!
Suzanne Phillips, MCMHCA President, 1986-1987, represented MCMHCA in Washington, DC at the AMHCA Legislative Training Workshop in support of inclusion of Certified Clinical Mental Health counselors in national third party legislation.
A primary focus of K. Edwin Graham’s MCMHCA Presidency, 1987-1988, was working with CHAMPUS and other insurance programs to clarify the issue regarding third party payments for Clinical Mental Health Counselors. Eventually CHAMPUS agreed to reimburse those LPCs who had taken and passed the certification examination offered by the National Academy of Certified Clinical Mental Health counselors (NACCMHC) and who had become a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC), However they would not reimburse LPCs who had taken the more generic exam offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) to become a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Today the NACCMHC no longer exists as a separate counselor certifying entity, but the CCMHC credential is considered a specialty area of the NBCC.
During Alice Stallworth’s term as MCMHCA President, 1988-89, concern regarding the need for third party payments for LPCs was increasing. This concern was actively demonstrated during the 1988 MCA Fall Conference when a small group of LPCs informally discussed their need for insurance reimbursements in order to be able to fully compete with other licensed mental health counseling professionals. During this discussion, they convinced one of our members, Evelyn Osborn, to spearhead the movement by becoming Chair of an Insurance Reimbursement/Freedom of Choice committee. Other LPCs present immediately agreed to serve as committee members. This committee met for several yeas, during which time progress was made toward inclusion of LPCs as providers. Counselors were reporting some successes with insurance companies on a case by case basis. Evelyn also networked with out of State counselors on behalf of third party payments.
During Evelyn’s term as President of MCMHCA, 1989-1990, she continued to focus strongly on efforts to obtain support and participation of all MCMHCA members and LPCs in obtaining insurance reimbursement/freedom of choice legislation, and the formal support of MCA.
MCMHCA President, Barbara Pittman, 1990-1991, focused efforts on obtaining third party payments. During her administration, the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and MCMHCA co-sponsored a workshop for LPCs, on insurance reimbursement and issues related to “Freedom of Choice.” Dr. M. Covin, Chair of the AMHCA Freedom of Choice Committee, was the presenter.
During Bill Osborn’s 1991-1993 Presidency, he focused on building bridges within MCA to establish a power base for MCMHCA’s thrust into third party legislation. In 1992, a Freedom of Choice Law was passed in the legislature. It contained, however, a repealer.
During Bill Wheeler’s term as MCMHCA President, 1993-1994, a prime goal was to remove the repealer from the Freedom of Choice Law. With Bill at the helm as Freedom of Choice Committee Chair, (Chair Coordinator of the MCA Government Relations Committee), this effort was successful. Governor Fordice signed the Bill and the amended law became effective on July 1, 1994
Joy Arnold, MCMHCA President 1995 until January 1997, continued to focus on third party payment issues, National, and State organizational unity.
Pam Stowers, MCMHCA President, January 1997-1999, and Clinical Chair, Government Relations, for the Mississippi counseling Association, focused most of her energy on the continued quest for parity with other mental Health professional, in regard to insurance reimbursement matters. The focus was on getting action by either the MS Legislature, or by the State Insurance Management Board, to add the category, Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), as approved providers, to the State and Public School Employee’s Health Insurance Plan. Pam enlisted the assistance of MCMHCA members, created the Provider Task Force, a broad based network of mental health counselors, MCA members, and other parties interested in achieving this goal. The MCA awarded tow grants, a Legislative grant in 1997, and an Advocacy grant in 1998; also the service of its Lobbyist, Clare Hester, to assist with this effort. On June 22, 1999, only a week and a day prior to the end of Pam’s term as President, the State Insurance Management Board voted to add the term Licensed Professional Counselor (LPCs), to the State and Public School Employee’s Health Insurance Plan. Pam found out and was able to make the announcement to members on June 29, 1999.
Anne Hester served as MCMHCA President from July 1, 1999, until December 1999. In December she resigned her presidency, citing personal reasons for her resignation. During the time she served, she carried out the duties of her office enthusiastically. This included MCMHCA Executive Committee meetings, and her role in the 1999 MCA Conference, including the annual MCMHCA Membership meeting and planning the MCMHCA Reception.
Debbie Wells, President-Elect, for the years 2001-2003, assumed the office of MCMHCA President early, and immediately, to fill Ann’s unexpired term of office. During Deb’s first year, as President, 2000, a major focus of attention was the pursuit of a structural change (a new organizational name), designed to better represent the population of counselors which it serves. After much debate, the MCMHCA Executive Council finally agreed to the name, Mississippi Licensed Professional Counselors Association (MLPCA). The MCA Executive Board supported this change during its October 31, 2000 meeting and the name change will be announced during the MCA Annual conference, immediately following.