There is no doubt that this year has been remarkable in many ways.
At NBCC and Affiliates, 2020 has been a year of adaptation, flexibility, and continued growth. In March, for the safety of our staff, we made the decision to transition to working remotely. Each member of our team worked hard to think outside of the box and find creative ways to continue to serve counselors and stakeholders around the world. While I have truly missed the in-person contact, it has been so inspiring to watch everyone dedicate such tremendous amounts of time and energy to finding solutions to the challenges that came up.
One of the challenges that we faced this year was the closing of testing sites across the United States. This came as a shock to the thousands of students and counselors planning to schedule examinations during the spring and summer. Fortunately, we were able to develop alternative options that allowed examinees to test online for some examinations, from the safety of their home. This was an enormous undertaking, and I am proud of all of the individuals who coordinated to make it happen.
In terms of our programing, many of the plans that we made for 2020 ended up needing to be adjusted to keep our staff and stakeholders safe. Although this certainly posed some challenges, it also forced us to think creatively to come up with solutions. In the end, some of these changes ended up being for the better, and the ideas that we developed will be carried on into future programming.
Early in the lockdown, the NBCC Foundation was successfully able to seat a new cohort of fellows and move their annual Bridging the Gap Symposium online. This allowed attendees to connect with and learn from one another at a time when lots of things felt very uncertain. The cohort has continued their collaborations and connections throughout the year. The learning and support that they have received from each other this year will be incredibly beneficial to these counselors as they continue their important work with underserved communities.
This year, the NBCC Foundation’s Virtual Summit had more registrants than ever before. This event raised $71,000 that will be given as scholarships to counselors-in-training. We believe so strongly in the work that our scholars are dedicated to and are thrilled that with your help, we get to continue to support these individuals in their counseling journey.
Because of travel restrictions, one program that had to be paused was our learning institutes program. The institutes provide such a unique opportunity for participants to learn about different cultures while also earning continuing education, and it was a hard decision to pause them for the safety of participants. Although we were incredibly disappointed to have to make the difficult decision to pause these events, doing so opened the door for another opportunity. Next week, for the first time, our International Capacity Building Department will be hosting Mental Health Connections: Counseling Across the Globe, a virtual conference where participants will be able to connect directly with mental health leaders from communities around the world. We are excited to be able to expand this learning opportunity to counselors who may not have been able to attend an institute.
Now, more than ever, we are recognizing the importance of coming together in ways that honor the diversity of ideas and experiences that we all bring, and learning from those experiences and each other. Our country has been rocked in 2020 by egregious examples of racial injustice and brutality against people of color. Counselors have felt the wrongness of these acts, the unfairness, and the personal and global harm of them right in our core. It is increasingly important that counselors lend their voices to the calls for justice and equity and that we strive together to bring action and mobilize change. At NBCC and Affiliates we have sought to use our resources to support counselors who want to engage in the professional development necessary to be these strong voices in our communities and to serve their clients with competency and respect. We'll continue to do more of this and to be active in the efforts to advance justice and equity, particularly in counseling and mental health in 2021.
In incredibly exciting news from our Government and Legislative Affairs team, for the first time in 11 years, a Medicare bill passed through a committee markup in either the House or Senate. The passing of H.R. 945, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, through the House Committee on Energy and Commerce was a huge win for counselors everywhere. This bill would allow for counselors to be included as approved providers on Medicare panels. This is a gigantic step forward for our profession, and our Government Affairs team has been in the forefront of this fight for years. We are incredibly hopeful in the positive change that this can provide to communities across the United States.
Throughout this pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in the need for mental health services. As we have the opportunity to hear from counselors, I am inspired by the incredible work that they continue to do. Through many strenuous challenges, we have learned how to connect to each other in new and innovative ways. The role of counselors has been vital in helping people navigate this difficult time. It is truly an honor to be able to continue to serve the counseling profession.
It is true that we do not know what 2021 will bring. However, with all that we have been able to accomplish this year, I am left with a feeling of hope. I see the dedication of our team and the counselors that they serve. I know that together, we will continue to push forward, learn, adapt, and grow. I thank you for what you do.
President and CEO
NBCC and Affiliates
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