December 21, 2020

There is no doubt that 2020 has been an extraordinary year in many ways.

And I know that many of you cannot wait for 2021 to come and put this year behind you.

At AMHCA it has been year of adaptation, flexibility, and resilience – and many accomplishments.

Each member of our staff team worked so hard to think outside of the box and find creative ways to continue to serve clinical mental health counselors (CMHCs). 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 due to the pandemic.

But before I talk about AMHCA and accomplishments on behalf of our members, I want to talk about your accomplishments and thank you for all your contributions to American society during a very difficult year, and your continued support of AMHCA.

Ensuring access to mental health and addiction treatment could not be more urgent or important at this time. As we reported in our meta-study in August, we revealed that symptoms of anxiety disorder were approximately three times higher and prevalence of depression about four times higher among adults during the third quarter of 2020 compared with the same time in 2019. Meanwhile, overdoses have spiked during the pandemic with more than 40 states reporting increased opioid-related deaths. Suicide rates have continued to increase, up 35 percent between 1999 and 2019 with early indications of additional increases in suicides more recently.

The Covid-19 pandemic is uniquely intertwined with behavioral health conditions. Research has found that substance use disorders constitute a risk factor for Covid-19. In addition, recent findings point to increased risk of mental health conditions (anxiety and depression, in particular) among those who contract Covid-19, as well as an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 among those with preexisting mental health conditions.

Since the onset of the pandemic, clinical mental health counselors – serving as primary mental health providers on the frontlines of our behavioral health system — have been intensely focused on implementing many new practices and protocols to address the increased demand for behavioral health care while preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Clinical mental health counselors have developed and implemented new screening measures as well as greatly expanding the use of tele-mental health to provide care.

Your dedication to your clients and resilience have not gone unnoticed as we regularly have discussions with policymakers and stakeholders throughout the health care delivery system about your efforts, who recognize your outstanding caregiving skills as primary mental health caregivers to address the needs of people with mental health conditions during this tough period.

It is honor and privilege to represent you, and thank you for all you do.

In return, I want to highlight what we have tried to do on your behalf on a number of association fronts.

As we have the opportunity to hear from AMHCA members, I am inspired by the incredible work that you continue to do during these difficult times. Through many strenuous challenges, we have learned how to connect and re-connect with each other in new and innovative ways.

However, with all that we have been able to accomplish this year, I am left with a feeling of hope. I know that together, we will continue to push forward, learn, adapt, and grow. Thank you again for what you do.

I hope this holiday season brings you much joy – and wishing you a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Warm Regards,

Joel E. Miller, CEO and Executive Director, American Mental Health Counselors Association