AFGE Urges Military to Stand with Mental Health Counselors

Categories: The Insider

In a show of support for nearly 300 Military Family Life Counselors who have recently organized with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), AFGE urged Military Community Support Programs Director Lee Kelly to stand with the mental health counselors as they are trying to achieve fair contracts with the programs’ contractors.

Military Family Life Counselors are mental health professionals who work with service members and their families to address issues and stressors that affect their daily lives with the goal of curbing the epidemic rates of suicides, PTSD, and substance abuse.

These counselors are on U.S. military installations across the world. They work for program contractors: Magellan Health, Strategic Resources Inc., JCS Military Support Services, American Hospital Services Group, and MHN Government Services.

But the contractors have made it difficult for their employees to carry out the program’s mission. They have, for example, cut wages and provided very little benefits, making it difficult to retain and hire employees, resulting in a much larger workload for the remaining counselors. Staffing shortages have left service members and their families without enough access to care.

In addition, some counselors are paying more than $1,000 a month for their healthcare while the billion-dollar for-profit health insurance companies like Magellan Healthcare and Centene Corporation who administer the contracts continue to receive large funding from the military.

“Something is very wrong in the MFLC program. The problem is caused by the lack of workplace democracy,” AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley recently wrote to the program director. “I want you to know that every member of AFGE stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the unionized counselors’ efforts to win fair contracts. It is paramount to the program’s success for the frontline counselors to have a seat at the table.”

The NST added that the contractors must stop impeding the right of the workers to advocate for themselves as professionals and the right to advocate for the vital services that they provide to our nation’s heroes.

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