At the end of February, 26 of 30 students and four professors from the WFU Counseling Department attended the American Counseling Association Legislative Institute. The Institute is an intensive training program for members of the ACA interested in advocating and lobbying for counseling-related legislation.
As a relatively young profession, advocating for legislation that recognizes the importance of counseling and expands client access to counseling services is a high priority. Only recently has the Veteran’s Administration recognized professional counselors as mental health professionals eligible for reimbursement for clients receiving VA benefits. Important federal legislation that hangs in the balance at the moment concerns reimbursement parity with other health services for mental health professionals under private health insurance policies and federal grants for elementary and secondary school counselors.
In addition to educating attendees on legislation currently being considered, presenters taught about how the legislative process works. Breakout sessions focused on advocating and lobbying at the state level. As a special session, Congressman Brian Baird addressed the group about his efforts to push mental health parity.
The highlight of the program, though, was the visit to congressional offices to talk with congresspersons and aides. Attendees divided into groups according to their state and district representatives to meet with Senate and House members and aides. Wake Forest students met with a total of eight Senators and six Representatives from four states.
(This overview of the 2007 ACA Legislative Institute was written by Mike Nuckolls, ’07.)