Larry Conner: Don't Take It for Granted

01 Feb 2018 11:13 AM | Moira Ryan (Administrator)

At the ORCA Fall Conference, COPACT distributed a written history that explained how there was a fifteen year challenging journey for LPCs and LMFTs to receive insurance reimbursement, which was finally achieved in 2009 with the passage of our Practice Act. During the Conference, I was amazed by how many people told me they had no idea there was a time when LPCs on Oregon could not receive insurance reimbursement.

Yes, for most of my career, I worked primarily on a cash basis. I chose to get a Masters in Counseling Psychology because I wanted the strongest clinical training I could find. I knew I would not receive insurance payments, but I assumed we would fix that later. It turned out to be much later. Please never take for granted how challenging it was for LPCs and LMFTs to practice on a cash basis, and how hard we had to work to achieve insurance equality with other providers.  

Earlier this year, I received a call from the President and President-elect of the Washington Mental Health Counselors Association. They wanted to talk with me about my experience as the President of the Oregon Mental Health Counselors Association when we merged with the Oregon Counseling Association in 2013, which we did to cement stronger funding to pay for COPACT’s lobbyist. They told me that, after 20 years, WAMHCA had lost the ability to pay for a lobbyist. They said they were deeply worried about the future of Mental Health Counseling in Washington. I was surprised by what they said because WAMHCA had been a powerhouse in the Washington Legislature for a long time. For example, Washington Mental Health Counselors achieved the right to receive insurance payments long before we gained that in Oregon. 

After I hung up the phone, I was worried. If it could happen in Washington, it could happen here. Once a professional organization becomes aware of how a state legislature works, it is a terrifying prospect to not have a lobbyist in the state capitol.  All kinds of bad things can happen if we do not have a lobbyist protecting us.  

Why did WAMHCA lose its ability to pay for a lobbyist?  Simply because Washington Mental Health Counselors became complacent and stopped being members of WAMHCA. Their funding base shrunk and eventually they could not pay their lobbyist.  

I fear we may be heading in the same direction in Oregon.  There are just over 3000 LPCs in Oregon. Only 331 are paying members of ORCA. There are just over 1000 LPC interns. Only 126 are members of ORCA. The way things are currently, only about 11% of potential members are in ORCA.

Thanks to you for your commitment to ORCA. You are the ones who keep the train moving.  Where are the rest? I fear they are lost in complacency. They must assume somebody else will cover for them.  

Psychologists and Social Workers are loyal to their professional organizations. The vast majority of them belong to their professional organizations, so their funding base for lobbying is secure. That makes them safe and effective in the legislature. They know how much their lobbyists do for them and their clients, and they sustain them by paying organizational dues.  

So, this is what I invite all ORCA members to do: 

Please ask your colleagues if they are members of ORCA. If they are not, inform them what ORCA does for them and tell them they are hurting themselves and their futures by not becoming members. Show them the history of COPACT. Tell them COPACT’s lobbyist is paid out of ORCA dues. Without increasing the number of ORCA members, we may be facing the same issue WAMHCA is to our north.

Let’s nudge all of our friends to get out of complacency and into action. Let’s get out the word: we need more LPCs and LPC Interns in ORCA. Pass the word. Show them the COPACT History. Talk about the importance of attending the yearly Fall Conference and ORCA workshops like the upcoming Grief training. Keep passing the word…and don’t stop.  

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