ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — For decades, a major shortage of licensed mental health professionals have been hidden under an exemption that allowed counselors, marriage, and family therapists to diagnose and prescribe treatments.

The exemption is due to hit on June 24th, creating a shortage in mental health systems across the state.

Thursday, lawmakers signed new legislation to streamline the licensing process for professionals to avoid — what they see — will be a crisis.

Assemblyman Harry Bronson said New York State has been in a mental health crisis for many years, long before the COVID pandemic. “And then after the pandemic, that need grew exponentially.” 

Alongside Senator Samra Brouk, Bronson talked about passing a bill (S9449/A6008E) to ensure greater access to mental health services. Young people are a big part of this “who are facing a pandemic from a health standpoint; they’re facing the pandemic from being isolated in many situations because they have not been doing in-person learning,” he said.

Rochester Teachers Union President Adam Urbanski said the pandemic turned the lives of young people upside down. “It really disrupted their social interactions, their emotional state,” he said.

Beyond youth, Senator Brouk said it’s a crisis impacting everyone. 

“This is about helping some of the most vulnerable folks who need help,” she said. “The majority of New Yorkers don’t have access to that kind of resource,”

In summary, the bill will standardize the requirements for licensure of trained mental health professionals to increase access. 

“And that’s who we’re helping with this. By bringing thousands and thousands of providers back online to do treatment-based plans and diagnose people,” Senator Brouk said.

The next step for this legislation is to go to the governor’s desk for signing before June 24th. A link to the full video presser can be found here.


You can read the full press release here:

For decades, a dramatic shortage of licensed mental health professionals has been hidden by an exemption that allowed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists and psychoanalysts to diagnose and prescribe treatment within certain settings.

This exemption is set to sunset on June 24, 2022, creating a massive shortage in the public mental health and substance use disorder systems of care across New York State. Without the exemption, only Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSWs), Licensed Psychologists and physicians will be authorized to diagnose patients.

Senator Samra Brouk and Assemblymember Harry Bronson sponsored and passed legislation to prevent the disruption of mental health care. Their legislation, S9449/A6008E, will address the workforce challenges within the mental health and substance abuse system. Specifically, their bill will standardize the requirements for licensure of these professions. The legislation will authorize trained professionals with the requisite education and experience to diagnose and develop assessment-based treatment plans.

“The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people, adults and families continues; we are seeing a tremendous increase in demand for the treatment of anxiety and depression across all demographics and geographics,” said Senator Samra Brouk. “For years, New York has relied on temporary solutions to meet the growing need for mental health professionals in our state, and has extended exemptions each year that allow providers the ability to diagnose and treat their patients. Today, we have successfully passed licensure reform to allow mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts to continue to diagnose and develop assessment-based treatment plans for New Yorkers who need help. I’m proud to have championed this legislation alongside my colleague Assemblymember Harry Bronson. I look forward to continuing my work to transform and invest in New York’s mental health system.”

“A crisis is looming.  A mental health crisis which is getting even worse due to COVID-19 where the demand for services far outreaches the workforce available.  But this is not just a workforce issue.  This crisis, is about our children, it’s about our families, it’s about our communities,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson.  With passage of this legislation, we will ensure we have the required number of providers who are eligible to diagnose and treat patients increases available to get people into mental health care. We must meet this crisis head-on for our children and families. Thank you to my colleague Senator Samra Brouk for working with me on this essential legislation.”

S9449/A6008E, will modernize the education of the mental health providers as well as modernize the scope of practice that will benefit the families of New York State.

The National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP) applauds the passage of A6008E sponsored by Senator Brouk and Assemblymember Bronson. This critical legislation will increase numbers of mental health providers with diagnostic authority to serve the growing mental health needs of New Yorkers, across public and private practice settings. Parity in diagnostic education and authority across the mental health professions is essential to ease of access for residents of New York seeking mental health services from the existing diversity of mental health providers who will be able to work in more settings to meet the growing demands for mental health care in New York State. This legislation is critical for expanding access to quality mental health care for all New Yorkers!”

Furthermore, this legislation would amend the scope of practice of LMHCs, LMFTs and LPs to include similar language. It amends the requirements for diagnostic privilege to bring them more in line with current requirements for licensed social workers. These requirements include filing an application with the State Education Department, being licensed and registered as a LMHC, LMFT or LP and verifying completion of an appropriate course of study and at least 2,000 hours of supervised work with patients. By authorizing more mental health professionals to diagnose conditions, we will be increasing the pool of qualified mental health professionals and helping agencies and mental health clinics meet the increasing need for mental health services.

Dr. Carol Podgorski, PhD, MPH, LMFT from the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy – New York Chapter said, “Master’s prepared mental health clinicians such as Marriage and Family Therapists often serve as the point of entry to mental health care. These licensed practitioners have training and experience in assessing, diagnosing, and providing evidence-based treatments for a variety of behavioral health disorders, including depression and anxiety. New York, however, was one of the only states in the US that does not permit these licensed professionals to provide all of the services they are trained to offer. This has created treatment delays and added costs to those seeking care, especially in underserved populations across the state. The passage of this legislation provides hope for increased mental health access for all New Yorkers who need care. This would not have been possible without the leadership of Assemblymember Bronson and Senator Brouk.”

“Licensed mental health counselors are partners with the state in providing mental health care to children and adults with mental health issues. We look forward to being able to better serve our communities by providing diagnosis and clinical mental health counseling,” said Judith Ritterman, LMHC, LMFT, Executive Director of the New York Mental Health Counselors Association.

“NYMHCA is grateful that Assemblymember Bronson and Senator Brouk recognize the mental health crisis facing our communities.  As more people seek mental health care, licensed mental health counselors are ready to meet the requirements needed to diagnose and get New Yorkers in need into treatment,” said Juan Eric Arevalo, LMHC, President of the New York Mental Health Counselor Association.

As a leading provider of residential treatment and community-based services for the vulnerable youth and families of New York State, Hillside has a unique perspective on this longstanding issue that directly affects our ability to serve those in need,” said Maria Cristalli, Hillside President and Chief Executive Officer. “This new legislation will play a vital role in allowing our highly trained clinical teams to provide the full range of services that matches their training and experience—to the benefit of countless families and the communities they call home. We’re so grateful for the advocacy and leadership shown by Assemblymember Bronson and Senator Brouk in bringing this important legislation to long-awaited life.”