The Indian Health Service (IHS), the federal health program for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), does not recognize professional counselors as health care providers on par with social workers and psychologists. Among other problems, counselors are not eligible for funding through the IHS scholarship program, a key IHS provider recruitment tool.
NBCC decided to take action on this issue after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general’s office released a report in September 2011 showing a shortage of mental health professionals in AI/AN communities and a lack of distinction between professional counselors and unlicensed practitioners. NBCC is working with Congress and IHS to provide the AI/AN population with increased access to counselors and mental health services, including initiatives to increase recruitment of counselors in IHS through the scholarship program and increasing access to mental health services through the Mental Health Facilitator.
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