Music therapist objects to mental health insurance limits

Health. Late amendment could affect treatment affordability.

| 27 Jan 2023 | 01:27

Music therapist Melinda Burgard of Greenwood Lake is a state licensed creative arts therapist and the owner of Melinda’s Music, a provider of music and educational workshops.

Late last year and with widespread support, the state legislature passed bill A1171A, which stipulated that health insurance policies must cover outpatient treatment by licensed mental health practitioners including creative arts therapists, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and licensed psychoanalysts. All four categories have standardized and state approved requirements for education, supervised post-graduate practice and continuing education.

The bill required blanket health insurance for mental health treatment, but a last minute amendment by Gov. Kathy Hochul struck creative arts therapists from the bill.

“That eliminated mental health care from those most in need,” Burgard said. “Licensed creative arts therapists make up 14 percent of all licensed mental health practitioners that were covered in the bill. Creative arts therapies are especially effective for treating people who have lived through trauma and for people who struggle to benefit from talk therapy. This includes children, teenagers and those with severe psychiatric needs.”

She added that some New Yorkers will not have insurance coverage to see a licensed creative arts therapist or may risk losing their mental health provider when they have to change insurance for any reason.

One of the governor’s arguments for the removal was fear of increased cost to the state, which Burgard argues is inaccurate.

Licensed creative arts therapists are trained in psychotherapy and in specific arts disciplines which may include art therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, and poetry therapy.

“This last minute decision,” Burgard said, “will have a significant impact on the availability of affordable mental health care in New York.”