Recent legislation signed by New York Governor Kathy Hochul is already impacting people’s ability to receive mental health care and treatment more quickly and efficiently.

The most important aspect of the Mental Health Diagnosis bill is that it gives Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) the ability to diagnose patients and get them into treatment without having to wait a long time. Previously, LMHCs needed a psychiatrist or other qualified licensed professional sign off on a mental health diagnosis. The process often resulted in longer wait times for patients to receive care, which was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 resulted in an increase in isolation, loneliness, and mental health issues among vulnerable populations. Over the past few years, the direct correlation between physical and mental health has become more clear. Whereas laboratory and other testing can be performed to determine the presence of a physical ailment, identifying and diagnosing an individual’s behavioral health issues can be more complex. An accurate diagnosis of mental health issues is often accomplished through patients self-reporting their symptoms to a trusted trained clinician.

Governor Hochul’s endorsement means that more than 10,000 mental health professionals who have a Master’s degree in a related field will be authorized to provide a mental health diagnosis and develop an assessment plan for patients. Both of these are required to get patients into treatment, and it is typically the LMHC who builds and develops a relationship with the patient.

“This bill is essential for LMHCs, as it allows patients to quickly get the services they need,” says Brittany Deery, Clinical Director for Spectrum Health and Human Services.