NBCC, along with the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), recently held a virtual congressional briefing in conjunction with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The virtual event focused on S. 286/H.R. 945, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, which would allow mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to bill Medicare for counseling services. Congressional staff were able to hear from representatives from NBCC, AMHCA, and The Michael J. Fox Foundation as well as Lisa Cohn, a Parkinson’s disease patient and advocate; Dr. Roseanne Dobkin, a psychologist and Parkinson’s disease researcher; and Henry Montero, a licensed mental health counselor researching cognitive behavioral therapy for Parkinson’s disease treatment.
According to The Michael J. Fox Foundation, 90% of Parkinson’s disease patients are currently covered by Medicare. As it is a neurological condition, Parkinson’s disease brings with it many mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, and mood changes are hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Patients are also at increased risk for addiction and suicidal ideation. Unfortunately, given the lack of mental health providers available to Medicare beneficiaries, these patients have limited resources for help.
“More than half of all Parkinson’s disease patients experience depression or anxiety,” says Ted Thompson, JD, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for The Michael J. Fox Foundation. “This has an impact on their long-term health and well-being. Congress must expand Medicare coverage to include additional providers so that people with Parkinson’s disease can obtain the mental health counseling they need.”
The presenters provided insight on how mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists can effectively treat the mental health implications of Parkinson’s disease patients and help them manage their symptoms with therapy. Congressional staff from Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, and many other states attended the virtual event. A link to a recording of the event is provided by The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Our Government Affairs team was thrilled to work with AMHCA and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to bring the patient access aspect of this issue to life. Our organizations will continue to work together to see this legislation passed and help both patients and providers.