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HIPAA Compliance: What You Need to Know About the New HIPAA-HITECH Rules
Counselors who have not already done so will need to update their policies and contracts to comply with new HIPAA rules added by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). If you think HIPAA is no big deal or don't have a clue what HITECH means, this could be a wake-up call.Read more
NBCC Announces Grant for Programs Seeking CACREP Accreditation
On February 1, 2014, the National Board for Certified Counselors and Affiliates (NBCC) launched a unique assistance initiative for regionally accredited institutions seeking first-time accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) for master’s-level counseling programs. Institutions with tracks currently approved by CACREP are not eligible at this time.
As counselors are increasingly met with federally mandated requirements for education, NBCC has recognized that it can help schools that are considering accreditation. Assisting schools with funding to better establish counselor professional identity has become an important part of NBCC’s commitment.
Funds will be awarded to university programs in three phases: $2,500 for the preapplication phase, $2,500 for the application phase and $4,000 for the site visit phase. These phases coincide with the seven steps of the CACREP accreditation process. Institutions can submit an initial application for this grant during the first two phases. Institutions that successfully complete one phase will be eligible for funds for the subsequent phases. Fifteen CACREP accreditation assistance grants will be available in the first year.
The application period for the 2014–2015 academic year opened February 1, 2014, and closes May 15, 2014.
Final TRICARE Rule
NBCC announces that the Department of Defense released the final rule establishing standards for counselor participation in the TRICARE program today.
This final rule follows the previous interim final rule (IFR), which was released in December 2011 and created the initial criteria for counselor independent practice under TRICARE. The final rule modifies the IFR in response to comments and concerns expressed by the public
NBCC has been an active proponent of independent practice rights for counselors in TRICARE for over a decade, and this rule is the culmination of that effort. The IFR granted independent practice authority to counselors, but contained a number of burdensome limitations
NBCC believes the final rule is a significant improvement over the IFR and is pleased to see many of our recommendations were incorporated. The entirety of the rule can be read here; the highlights of the changes include the following:
- Extension of the transition period to 2017
- Previously, the IFR was scheduled to end December 31, 2014, but the final rule extends the transition period for two years, until January 1, 2017. Additionally, TRICARE clarified that any counselor meeting the transition criteria before January 1, 2017, could apply at any time under those standards (including after the transition period closes). Many organizations, including NBCC, have advocated for a longer transition period. With this extension, the transition period is five years.
- The transition period educational and test requirements include:
- Possession of a master’s degree or higher from a mental health counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Education Programs and passage of the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE)
- Possession of a master’s degree or higher in counseling from a regionally accredited institution and passage of the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
- Indefinite continuation of the supervised counselor status
- The IFR allowed counselors to continue to practice under physician supervision as supervised mental health counselors (SMHCs) until January 1, 2015. After that date, the SMHC status would no longer be reimbursed. The final rule removes the expiration date and extends the SMHC status indefinitely. Consequently, counselors currently practicing under supervision may continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The final rule will take effect on August 18, 2014.
NCCs interested in more information can review the final rule or contact the Behavioral Health Branch at 703-681-0064. NBCC is pleased with the positive improvements to the TRICARE standards found in the final rule, particularly those requirements broadening inclusion, extending the transition period and expanding access to counselors for TRICARE beneficiaries.
Announcement Regarding NBCC Option to Reopen Applications
Effective April 30, 2014, former applicants will no longer have the option to reopen National Certified Counselor (NCC) applications that have closed. Upon closure of an application, all contents of the application, including examination scores, will be inaccessible to the applicant. Individuals who wish to reopen and complete a closed application may do so until April 30, 2014, by contacting the Certification Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. After April 30, 2014, applicants must reapply under current application requirements and retake the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
Announcement Regarding NBCC Credential Prereviews of Coursework
Effective January 1, 2014, NBCC will no longer offer prereviews of coursework for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential or the specialty credentials. NBCC currently provides this service for individuals who want to determine if they meet the educational requirements for the voluntary NCC credential prior to applying. Applicants for the NCC credential have two years in which to fulfill any missing coursework content areas.