The largest mandates of the Affordable Care Act are set to begin in January 2014. The sweeping reforms have affected almost every corner of US healthcare since early provisions started going into effect, including the mental health sector. However the major expected change for professionals in the field is still yet to come with the addition of an expected 32.1 million people gaining insurance that covers mental health and substance abuse needs, and almost as many receiving parity on existing plans. In advance of the anticipated need, Southwestern College is encouraging more people to seek a career in the areas of mental health and substance abuse counseling.
“Between the implementation of parity protection and the growing ranks of insured Americans, there will be more US citizens with proper access to mental care than ever before,” says Dr. Jim Nolan, President of Southwestern College. “We need to be prepared to meet the demand so that each patient is able to get the help and attention that they deserve. And a manager from a large, local agency just told me last week: ‘Jim, if you could send me a dozen licensed professionals tomorrow, I would hire them—and if they spoke Spanish, I would hire them yesterday.’ The professional opportunity is there.”
In addition to the national need for additional mental health professionals, New Mexico is uniquely poised to require higher than average additions to employment numbers in the field. According to a recent study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, New Mexico has the highest per capita rate of mental illness in the United States, with an estimated 23.6 percent of the population battling it to some degree. The state is expecting half of the 448,000 uninsured residents to either purchase plans through the health exchange or be eligible for benefits under Medicaid expansion, which allows for thousands of potential new clients to seek mental health treatment.
Another area of focus is that of young people, with President Barack Obama taking special interest in the mental health of those aged 16-25. In addition to funding state based programs and educating teachers on the signs of mental illness, he is also advocating the training of an additional 5,000 professionals with an emphasis on serving students and young adults.
“The need is out there, and due to the Affordable Care Act many people who are negotiating life with a mental illness can now seek the help that they deserve,” concludes Nolan.
Now in its 34th year, Southwestern College’s motto is Transforming Consciousness through Education. It is a graduate level institution that focuses on counseling and art therapy. Offering a holistic environment for learning, students undergo rigorous academic work that follows national standards for the Counseling and Art Therapy professions while also affording opportunities for deeply meaningful interaction and sharing.
Southwestern College can be reached by phone at 877-471-5756 or online at www.swc.edu.
Visit http://www.swc.edu for more information.
Name: Jim Nolan
Organization: Southwestern College
Address: 3960 San Felipe Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507