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News & Press: AMHCA News

AMHCA Praises Final Rule on TRICARE

Thursday, July 17, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Whitney Meyerhoeffer
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AMHCA Praises Final Rule on TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselors

More Recognition Needed for CMHCs

Alexandria, Va. — July 17, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Defense published a final rule today to implement the TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselor (TCMHC) provider type as a qualified mental health provider authorized to independently diagnose and treat TRICARE beneficiaries and receive payment for services.

The final rule goes into effect on August 18, 2014. View the final rule.

Additionally, through this rule, TRICARE is extending the time frame that was highlighted in the Interim Final Rule (IFR) for meeting certain education, examination, and supervised clinical practice criteria to be considered for authorization as a TCMHC.

The time frame has been changed from prior to January 1, 2015, to prior to January 1, 2017. Moreover, one final set of criteria will be applied for the authorization of the TCMHC beginning January 1, 2017. The supervised mental health counselor (SMHC) provider type, while previously proposed to be terminated under TRICARE, is now continued indefinitely as an extra-medical individual provider practicing mental health counseling under the supervision of a TRICARE-authorized physician.

Under this final rule, TRICARE beneficiaries are able to choose the services of a either a TCMHC who independently provides diagnostic and therapeutic services or a Supervised Mental Health Counselor (SMHC) who is authorized to provide mental health counseling pursuant to physician referral and ongoing supervision of the beneficiary's care.

TRICARE also determined that the final rule will adhere to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) 2010 recommendations that incorporate a set of four criteria (licensure, education, certification via examination, and clinical supervision), not the state license alone, for the independent practice of MHCs under TRICARE.

Additionally, CMHCs who meet all certification requirements prior to the end of the transition period can apply for TRICARE authorization at any time after the transition period. Such authorization will be based on the certification requirements met prior to the end of the transition period. Providers who do not meet all of the certification requirements prior to the expiration of the transition period will be required to meet the quality standards recommended by the IOM and adopted by TRICARE, including possession of a master's or higher-level degree from a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)- accredited mental health counseling program of education and training as well as having passed the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

“It is critically important to see that TRICARE, by significantly extending the transition phase to 2017, understands and appreciates the value that CMHCs offer to their clients”, said Stephen Giunta, Ph.D., President of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA).

"Nonetheless, AMHCA will continue to work toward the needs of all CMHCs, including those that graduated from programs that were not CACREP-accredited. A viable solution that both supports CACREP for future CMHCs and permanently qualifies non-CACREP professionals during this transition period must be found. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road,” Dr. Giunta noted. He emphasized, "The Department of Defense has elected to adopt these standards and criteria that are embodied in the rule, consistent with the IOM's recommendation, as AMHCA is the recognized national or professional association that sets the standards for the profession."

For more information or questions about the final rule, please contact Jim Finley, AMHCA Associate Executive Director and Director of Public Policy, at