Why I'm against the proposed licensing rule changes for counselors in Michigan

A friend of mine recently told me that she's considered slitting her wrists. Not because she wanted to die, but because she knew, if she did it, then she would get the help she needed.

That's how bad the mental health care crisis is. There is such a shortage of mental health specialists that my friend thought this was the only way she could find help. It shouldn't be like that.

Danielle Catton, one of my favorite mental health awareness Instagrammers, wrote a post last week about how she's been trying to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. She was put on a list —to be seen, at the earliest, in May 2020. Seven freakin' months!

"The sad reality of this is that this is normal. It’s normal to have to wait almost a year (sometimes more!) just to get one single appointment where you are then supposed to try and unload your entire life’s story onto a psychiatrist and hope they can determine a proper diagnosis and treatment plan within an hour session," she wrote.

For me, I see a psychiatrist 84 miles away because he was the only person I could get an appointment with. My primary care doctor referred me to see someone at Henry Ford Hospital. Not a specific psychiatrist but any psychiatrist at any of the 10 Henry Ford Hospitals within a 25-mile radius. I called weekly for months but there were never any available appointments at any of the hospitals.

While there are only about 1,100 psychiatrists in Michigan, there are about 10,000 licensed professional counselors. And they can also give you a proper diagnosis for your mental illness. According to the American Counseling Association, while they cannot prescribe medications, "Professional counselors can diagnose and/or treat mental health disorders."

But the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulator Affairs is trying to take the ability to diagnose out of counselors' scope of practice. The department has proposed an update to licensing rules that would move “diagnose and psychotherapy” from counselors’ job description to their educational training requirements. And if this change happens, it will make the gap in care for those with mental illnesses even wider.

Anyone who is able is encouraged to attend LARA's public hearing on these proposed rule changes at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the G. Mennen Williams Building Auditorium, 525 W. Ottawa Street, Lansing.

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