To understand FMHCA’s history, it is necessary to know a little about how the organization relates to several other groups.
At the national level, the American Counseling Association (ACA) is an umbrella organization for a number of professions related to counseling (mental health counseling, school psychologists, others). In addition, ACA has divisions in each state that mirror the national structure, such as the Florida Counseling Association (FCA).
The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) was organized in 1976 (co-founded by Floridian Jim Messina) as a division of ACA. Two years later (1978), the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (FMHCA) was chartered as a state affiliate of AMHCA, and, just as AMHCA was a division of ACA, FMHCA was a chapter of FCA. Stuart Young was FMHCA’s first President (1978-1979).
From the beginning, FMHCA has served the mental health counseling profession in Florida by monitoring and influencing legislative activity, offering educational opportunities and serving a medium for professional networking at the local, state and national levels.
As an example of legislative involvement, recall that mental health counseling is a licensed profession in Florida and as such is governed by the provisions of Florida Statute 491. An important part of FMHCA’s history is the proactive role it took in bringing about a major change in this law back in the ‘80s. Formerly, FS 491 was a “Title Act” (one could not call themselves a “Mental Health Counselor” unless licensed by the state). Due largely to the efforts of FMHCA members and its lobbyist, FS 491 became a “Practice Act” (one cannot practice the arts and skills required of a mental health counselor unless licensed by the state). This change was beneficial to the consumer of mental health counseling services.
Another example of the important role FMHCA has played legislatively over the years is in modifying the Baker Act to permit LMHCs to invoke its provisions when necessary. Formerly, when an LMHC’s client demonstrated a threat to him/herself, the practioner had to call on a psychologist, clinical social worker or the police to make an involuntary commitment to a treatment facility. After many years of fruitless effort, the law was finally changed, thanks to FMHCA, to provide for LMHCs to make involuntary commitments directly.
Currently (2011-2014), FMHCA is ably represented in Tallahassee by the legislative consulting firm of Mixon and Associates, Inc. that works closely with FMHCA’s Governmental Relations Committee.
FS 491 is administered in Florida by the “Board of Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Mental Health Counselors”, commonly referred to as the “491 Board”. The history of FMHCA includes the fact that several of its Past Presidents have gone on to serve on this important board, including Chuck Landis, Bill Day, Sally Mallery and Denny Cecil-Van Den Heuvel.
As for providing educational opportunities, FMHCA has organized an outstanding state-wide conference for the past three years under the leadership of Denny Cecil-Van Den Heuvel (2012), Elvis Lester (2013) and Darlene Silvernail (2014). This conference is now regarded as one of, if not the, outstanding state-wide conference for mental health professionals associated with AMHCA.
Organizationally, FMHCA was a local affiliate of FCA for its first 17 years. However, in 1997 it separated from FCA , forming a non-profit corporation with 501(c)(6) status under IRS provisionsPres. This gave FMHCA control over its own affairs, including its data base as well as its income and expenses. Perhaps the most valuable benefit of separation was that it increased the professional identity of its members.
As Shakespeare said, “What’s past is prologue.” FMHCA stands ready to continue serving its members and the profession for the foreseeable future.