New Jersey Legislative Update

 To all:

Here is the motion voted on at the NJCA board meeting dated 6/24/2017.

“The New Jersey Counseling Association board publicly condemns the increase in interpersonal violence and hate crimes impacting both NJ and the country. The statement also recognizes clients’ diversity on the basis of religious affiliation, race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, social class, immigration status, and various levels of abilities as positively contributing to the richness and long term sustainability of NJ and the nation. NJCA and all counselors who openly advocate for interpersonal respect, creative conflict resolution and inclusion make a huge difference for those clients whose self-respect is compromised and their lives may be endangered.” (Motion voted on and approved at the NJCA board meeting of 6/4/2017).  

 Branch Report to ACA President and Governing Council

New Jersey Counseling Association Connie S. Ducaine NJCA President 2016–2017 January 24, 2017

The following is a brief overview of some of the many accomplishments of the NJCA for the period of July 1, 2016 to January 22, 2017. This list represents the collective work of the leadership team, members and the paid staff of the NJCA.

NJCA key accomplishments for period of July 1, 2016 to January 22, 2017:

ü Member Count as of 01/22/17: 1,056

ü Sent representatives to ACA’s 216 Institute for Leadership Training (ILT) held in Arlington, VA – July 27 – 29, 2016

ü Participated in the North Atlantic Regional (NAR) meeting held during ILT

ü Developed NJCA Strategic Plan (attached)

ü Implemented statewide survey of counselors to identify their needs and expectations of the NJCA

ü Facilitated New Leaders Orientation – July 9, 2016 (Purpose: introduce new leaders to mission, vision and values of NJCA, as well as the documentation required to be completed by leadership and submitted to NJCA board.)

ü Facilitated Leadership Retreat – September 10, 2016 (Purpose: review statewide survey results and foster collaboration around the strategic plan. This was a CE event.)


ü Implemented Graduate Student/New Professional Engagement Program – initiative Launched September 2016 (Purpose: Increase student awareness of NJCA and to increase value of membership for students and new professionals.)

Program had 4 primary activities:

1. 60-minute presentation on campus entitled: Advocacy and Leadership - NJCA Members Make a Difference. Description: Presenters discussed the importance of advocacy and leadership as an aspect of our profession while offering the attendees an explanation of how students and professionals can advocate for clients and the profession via membership in a professional organization such as NJCA. Student attendees at the presentation were offered 1 year membership at no cost. # of Participating Universities: 8. Increase in student membership as of the date of this submission: 240+ 2


2. Virtual Town Halls for Students/New Professionals. Description: Conference calls are scheduled for students/new professionals to talk about issues of concern unique to them. The meetings are facilitated by the graduate student liaison, and both the president and executive director are in attendance.

3. Invitation to Attend Monthly State Licensure Board Meetings. Description: Students are invited to attend board meetings with president and past president. Participants meet with the President and Past President for breakfast prior to the meeting and are accompanied by a leader to familiarize the participants with the process. Participants’ expenses (e.g., breakfast, parking) are paid by the branch.

4. Day of Service Description: NJCA members are contributing time and resources to battling food insecurity in the state. To encourage student involvement, a day of service is scheduled for graduate student/new professional members during which they will give time to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

ü Co-sponsored NJAMC and NJCA 2016 Fall Conference - Inclusive Multicultural Counseling Work for Counselors’ and Client’s Healing: Honoring Ourselves and Our Clients through Racial and Other Multicultural Lenses. Dates: November 4 – 5, 2016.

ü Expanded NJCA social media presence to include Linked In, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter – Initiative Launched – September 2016

ü Attended monthly meetings of the NJ Professional Counselor Examiners Committee

ü Submitted application for 2017 Branch Award: Best Innovative Practice Award: Graduate Student/New Professional Engagement Program. Submitted – December 2, 2016.

ü Offered NJCA’s first virtual (and free) CE event: Weightism in the Workplace – January 7, 2017 (Purpose: Increase value of membership and introduce attendees to a topic not often explored in the literature.)

ü NJCA Board Meetings – September 17, 2016; November 22, 2016 and January 7, 2017

ü Participated in virtual NAR meetings: October 11, 2016, November 15, 2016 and December 13, 2016

ü Collaborated with groups and agencies to encourage food drives to combat food insecurity in NJ

Tasks to be completed by June 30, 2017:

 Leadership Development Workshop - (2.5 CE Event) – February 4, 2017 (Venue: Kean University; Target Audience – Divisions leaders & Members at Large)

o Part I: Understanding the NJCA – Structure and Connection with ACA (Facilitator – Nancy Benz) 3



o Part II: Advocacy for Counselors within the ACA Ethics Framework Accountability and Commitment in Leadership

 Day of Service – NJCA Members and non-members to serve at the Community Foodbank of New Jersey – February 25, 2017

 ACA Annual Conference and Expo in San Francisco, CA – March 15 – 19, 2017

 Delegates to attend NAR meeting scheduled during ACA Conference – March 18, 2017

 NJCA Spring Conference – May 5 – 7, 2017 (Venue: Brookdale Community College)

 Workshop: Nuts & Bolts of Licensure – March 25, 2017 (Venue: TBD; Target Audience – Students and New Professionals)

 NJCA Board Meetings – February 18, March 25, April 15, May 7 and June 24

 Enhance website and increase content of newsletter

 Facilitate community education sessions. (Purpose: Educate the community as to the role of professional counselors)

 Initiate “We Belong” membership campaign

 Pursue Five Star Branch Award


Respectfully submitted,

Connie S. Ducaine, LPC, LCADC, ACS, BCPC, NCC NJCA President

NJCA Public Policy & Legislative Committee Update - "Parity & the ACA"


Mental Health Parity Under the Affordable Care Act

Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

By Judy Watkins, Esq., Masters of Arts Candidate, Mental Health Counseling


A major focus of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to improve insurance coverage offered for mental health and substance abuse assistance. This has been facilitated by incorporation and expansion of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) into the ACA.  It is important to note that MHPAEA does not apply to all health plans provided by public or private employers.  Some exceptions include but are not limited to employers with fifty associates or under, or health insurance carriers who provide health coverage to employers with fifty employees or less, (Fact Sheet, 2010). Also, the ACA does not specifically mention counselors or any other mental health professionals specifically, (American Counseling Association, 2010).

MPHAEA requires group health plans and health insurance providers (collectively referred to as plans), which offer medical and/or surgical coverage, as well as, mental health and/or substance abuse disorder benefits, to have financial requirements and/or treatment limitations for mental health or substance abuse treatment that are not more restrictive than those applied to other medical and/or surgical claims, (42 U.S.C. § 300gg-26(a) (A)(i) and (ii)). 

For example, the financial requirements provision means that plans cannot charge more for “…deductibles co-payments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket expenses…” for mental health and substance abuse services as compared to most other medical care, (42 U.S.C. § 300gg-26(a)(3)(B)(i)).  In addition, treatment limitations encompass restrictions on the amount of visits, treatment regularity, days of coverage or comparable parameters regarding the range or length of treatment, (42 U.S.C. § 300gg-26(a)(3)(B)(ii)).

            Another major comparison is nonquantitiative treatment limitations which when applied to mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits cannot differ from those utilized for other medical services, 45 C.F.R. § 146.136(4)(i).  Some examples of nonquantiative treatment limitations include:  “…(D)[s]tandards for provider admission to participate in a network, including reimbursement rates;  (E) [p]lan methods for determining usual, customary, and reasonable charges;...”, 45 C.F.R. § 146.136(4)(ii)(D & E).

The Sentinel Project

Even though the federal government has provided significant direction, numerous questions regarding parity still remain for providers, regulators, insurance carriers, and most importantly consumers. Especially since New Jersey does not have a health insurance exchange and/or a federally funded consumer aid program, the Sentinel Project (Project) was formed to help ensure that the public can utilize the health services provided under the ACA.  The Project is a partnership with Seton Hall Law School and the New Jersey Public Interest Law Center, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, (“The Sentinel Project”, (n.d.)). To furnish some clarity on the status of parity in New Jersey, the Project issued a report based upon several years of research, (Jacobi & Ragone, 2016).  A conference was held on September 16, 2016 at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey to further explore the topic and discuss the Project’s findings.  Presenters and attendees included government officials, industry representatives, advocates, and consumers, (“The Puzzle of Parity,” 2016).

Parity in New Jersey

The primary burden of enforcing parity falls upon each respective state. Some issues that arise include how is such consistency to be monitored and/or measured.  In New Jersey, the state Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) is responsible for monitoring and enforcement, which currently does not require insurance carriers to file any specific documents to evidence parity compliance, (Jacobi & Ragone, 2016, p. ix).  The Project also revealed that despite much public information, the data to ascertain if parity does exist with an insurance provider is not readily ascertainable by consumers, advocates and government regulators, (Jacobi & Ragone, 2016, p. viii).

For the Project, one method used to gather information was interviews of government officials, providers, health insurers, and activists to explore the public’s experiences about trying to obtain mental health services though the federal healthcare Marketplace, since passage of the ACA and MHPAEA, (Jacobi & Ragone, 2016, p. 16). The following are just a sampling of some of the matters that need to be addressed further in New Jersey.  People in certain areas of the state had difficulty in finding substance abuse counselors, since many of the professionals were unable to join provider networks.  A number of treatment centers proposed that Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADCs) could offer the needed services.  However, at times CADCs were not compensated by insurance providers.  Moreover, some southern New Jersey hospitals struggled with locating out patient treatment services after clients had completed residential substance abuse programs, (Jacobi & Ragone, 2016, p. 17).  

In addition, medical professional directories provided by insurance companies were found to be inaccurate. In a survey conducted by the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, Inc., from an arbitrary selection of 525 doctors out of 702 psychiatrists listed in New Jersey based preferred provider organizations (PPOs), thirty three percent of the provider listings were not accurate, (Mental Health Association of New Jersey, 2013).  Some insurance carriers commented that medical professionals do not update their contact information, and others prefer not want to participate in insurance networks.  Usually, DOBI does not randomly contact providers using the contact information listed in insurance directories.  However, the Department normally will investigate consumer complaints, (Jacobi & Ragone, 2016, p. 19).  To help remedy the situation, DOBI now requires insurance carriers to communicate with providers who have not presented insurance claims in 12 months or greater, or contact them to confirm their intent to still belong to the provider network, (Managed Care Plans, 2016).  Some advocates argue that stronger regulation is still required, (Jacobi & Ragone, 2016, p. 19).  

As is demonstrated from this brief discussion, mental health parity is rather a complex issue, which requires further clarification and education especially for consumers. A regulatory infrastructure also is needed to monitor and enforce the requirements.  Assistance especially for consumers does exist, such as The Sentinel Project.  This can be contacted for information and/or to help consumers appeal coverage denials in New Jersey, (“The Sentinel Project”, (n.d.)). There are other resources including Parity Track, which provides mental health and substance abuse parity information on the federal government and all 50 states, including legislative, regulatory and court proceedings, (“Parity Track”, (n.d.)). 



American Counseling Association (2010, March). Frequently asked questions about the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). Retrieved from

Jacobi, J. V., & Ragone, T. A. (2016). Assess to behavioral health services in marketplace plans in New Jersey the puzzle of parity. Seton Hall Law Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy, pp. viii, ix, 16, 17,19. Retrieved from

Managed Care Plans, Provider Networks, N.J.A.C. §11:24C-4.6(d) (2016)

Mental Health Association in New Jersey, Inc. (2013). Managed care network adequacy report, p. 3.

Parity in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorder Benefits, 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-26(a)

Parity track. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The puzzle of parity: Implementing behavioral health parity. (2016). Retrieved from

The sentinel project. (n.d.). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration Fact Sheet. (2010, January 29). The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from

New VA Initiative Creates Pipeline to Hire Mental Health Counselors

If you are a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor (LPMHC), VA needs you!

Thanks to years of advocacy efforts from ACA and its dedicated members, the VA has finally announced a new training initiative that will ultimately lead to employment opportunities.

"As part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) recruitment plan to hire additional mental health care professionals, a new training initiative has been funded to attract Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors (LPMHC). LPMHCs are an important aspect of the mental health treatment team and VA plans to continue to increase hiring in this profession."
Read the full article here.

BRANCHES : Catherine Roland elected ACA's 65th President

Dear Colleagues:

ACA Nominations and Elections Chair, Dr. Cirecie West-Olatunji and I wanted you to know that Dr. Catherine B. Roland has been elected to serve as ACA's 65th President. Dr. Roland will begin her term as ACA President-elect on July 1, 2015 and will assume the presidency on July 1, 2016.

Dr. Roland has served as a volunteer leader at both the division and national levels. She currently serves as a member of ACA's Governing Council.

In addition to Catherine, Dr. Perry Francis and Dr. Joshua Watson ran in the election. ACA leaders and members appreciate all who are willing to run for office. The commitment of these fine individuals to run demonstrates their desire to improve the profession. Fielding such strong candidates reminds us that ACA is able to attract superior individuals who wish to serve.

Catherine is currently Chair of the Counseling Program at the Washington, D.C. Campus of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP). She is a licensed professional counselor in New Jersey and Arkansas, and a National Certified Counselor. She has been in private practice for 30 years and has worked at the university level for the past 24 years. She received both her M.Ed. and Ed.D. from the University of Cincinnati. She earned her B.A. from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

If you would like to contact Catherine, her e-mail is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please join us in wishing her well as she begins this important journey in ACA leadership!


Richard Yep
Chief Executive Officer

What  wonderful news - Catherine had been very active in NJCA while she taught here - at Montclair I believe - great news for NJ -and for her.  We are most fortunate to have a number of national leaders active in the NJCA -
Nancy Benz- NJCA Executive Director

Members' Area

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New Jersey Counseling Association
P.O. Box 74
Cranford, New Jersey 07016
Telephone: (609) 273-9917
Fax: (908) 272-2144


The New Jersey Counseling Association is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. The ACEP solely is responsible for all aspects of the program.