2009 Hill Visits: ELC Advocates Urge Federal Support for Psychology Education & Training

elc-1As in previous years, the annual Education Leadership Conference (ELC) concluded with a very successful Psychology Lobby Day on Tuesday, October 6th. Grouped together by states and armed with compelling facts and articles in their hill packets, nearly 100 ELC participants visited with their Senators and Representative on Capitol Hill to urge increased funding for the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program, the only federal program solely dedicated to the support of psychology education/training. In total, these advocates for psychology participated in approximately 150 Congressional visits, making significant progress in educating members of the House and Senate on psychology in general and GPE specifically.

ELC Advocacy Training for Novices

elc-2Recognizing that nearly 1/3 of ELC participants are new attendees each year, and that often the individuals have not had the opportunity to participate in a lobby day, as they do every year, the APA Education Government Relations Office (GRO) provided an advocacy training session for new advocates, or individuals who want to refresh their skills. The training included a brief review of the federal legislative process, including the annual appropriations process, as well as role-playing exercises designed to simulate a hill visit and give participants opportunity to practice their talking points and ask questions. As one of the participants exclaimed, “I wasn’t sure what to expect this morning, but this was great fun and I definitely feel better prepared for my hill visits tomorrow.”

GPE Program: Update from the Field

elc-3A plenary session entitled “U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Interdisciplinary Advisory Committee and Graduate Psychology Education Grants” provided ELC participants with an opportunity to hear first hand fro m current and former GPE grantees: Gilbert Newman, PhD, Director of Clinical Training, The Wright Institute, Tammy DeCoteau, PhD, PHS Indian Health Service, Paul Robins, PhD, Program Director, Pediatric Psychology and Co-Director, Psychology Internship Program, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Barbara Cubic, PhD, Associate Professor, Eastern Virginia Medical School. The panel, chaired by Ron Rozensky, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for International Programs, College of Public Health & Health Professions, University of Florida, afforded an opportunity for each of the GPE grantees to share detailed and compelling information about their programs and the underserved populations served by their grant. Especially important, the session provided ELC participants with a deeper understanding of the GPE Program and set the stage for urging increased funding for the program during their Hill visits.

Preparing for 2009 ELC Hill Visits

elc-4In order to integrate advocacy throughout the 3 ½ day conference, additional advocacy related sessions were scheduled throughout the ELC program. On Sunday, October 4th Nina Levitt, EdD, Associate Executive Director for Education GRO, briefed ELC participants about the GPE Program and updated everyone about efforts to gain increased funding for the program, noting that ELC advocates had a chance to make a real difference for psychology. Levitt explained that their message to urge support for the Senate level $4 million was most timely, as the House and Senate prepares to preconference funding-related issues. Monday afternoon, the day before Hill visits, was devoted to further in-depth review of the issue. Jenny Smulson, Education GRO Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, and former Professional Staff for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, also provided insider information on what to expect during a Hill visit. Christopher Kush, Soapbox Consulting, concluded the afternoon Hill visit preparations by leading everyone through a series of interactive exercises that not only included another Hill visit role-playing opportunity, but added in “opposition message” activity, which allowed everyone to practice responses to possible push-back.

2009 Education Advocacy Distinguished Service Awards Announced

elc-5Announcement of the Education Advocacy Distinguished Service Awards is always a highlight of the annual Education Leadership Conference. The three awards – APA Member At-Large, Education Advocacy Grassroots Network, and Friends of Psychology – were presented by APA Board of Educational Affairs Chair, Louise Douce, PhD, during a special luncheon.

In the category of APA Member At-Large, Charles L. Brewer, PhD, Furman University, was recognized not only for his long-standing personal and professional commitment to advancing psychology education and training but for his extraordinary efforts to raise awareness among faculty and students of the need for grassroots activities.

The Education Advocacy Grassroots Network award was then presented to APA President James H. Bray, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, and Regional Coordinator for the Federal Education Advocacy grassroots network. Dr. Bray was recognized for his tireless efforts to secure a psychology champion in Congress and gain federal support for psychology education and training and the delivery of integrated mental and behavioral health care for underserved populations through the Graduate Psychology Education Program.

The 2009 Friends of Psychology Award was presented to Abigail Pinkele, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) for her help with efforts to secure an explicit authorization for the Graduate Psychology Education Program, thereby demonstrating her understanding that mental and behavioral health care play a significant and integral role in improving health care for all Americans.

Congressman Gene Green Honored at ELC Reception

elc-6Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) was honored during a special ELC reception for his efforts to secure mental and behavioral health services for underserved populations in Texas and across the nation by introducing the Graduate Psychology Education Authorizing Bill (H.R.) along with Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). [A similar bill (S. 811) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI).] Passage of these bills would not only explicitly authorize and fully designate the GPE Program as a federal program, but it would also facilitate funding the GPE Program during the annual appropriations process. ELC attendees also thanked Congressman Green for his outstanding leadership in fighting to ensure that Mental Health Workforce Provisions were included in the House Health Care Reform Bill.