FY 2010 Congressional Appropriations Request: Restore Funding to the Graduate Psychology Education Program

Request: Provide $7 million in the FY 2010 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations bill for the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program within the “Allied Health and Other Disciplines” budget activity of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Background: The Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program is the nation’s only federal program dedicated solely to the education and training of psychologists. The activity is authorized by the Public Health Service Act [P.L. 105-392 Section 755 (b)(1)(J)] and funded under the “Allied Health and Other Disciplines” account in the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill. Without GPE, the nation would lose its critical mechanism to ensure the interdisciplinary training and placement of psychologists who specialize in underserved populations in communities with shortages of mental & behavioral health providers.

The GPE program is a competitive grant activity operated by the Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health Professions in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Currently it supports training grants at 18 academic institutions and training sites (e.g., children’s and VA hospitals) throughout the nation.

Purpose: Established in 2002, the GPE Program provides grants to accredited psychology doctoral, internship and postdoctoral training programs. An exemplary “two-for-one” federal program, the GPE Program supports the training of psychology graduate students with other health professions while they provide supervised mental & behavioral health services to underserved populations, such as older adults, children, the chronically ill, and victims of abuse and trauma, especially in rural and urban underserved communities. An increase in funding will allow for reinstating the geropsychology grants and establish a focus on returning military personnel and their families, who reside in underserved communities.

Older Adults: Twenty percent of people over 55 suffer from a mental disorder (2005); mental disorders affect physical health and the ability to function (2008); and approximately 70% of all primary care visits by older adults are driven by psychological factors. In addition, older adults with chronic illnesses such as heart disease have higher rates of depression than those medically well and depression lowers immunity and may compromise a person’s ability to fight infection (2008).

Military Personnel: One in five military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms consistent with major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (2008). According to the Pentagon the number of U.S. troops diagnosed by the military with PTSD jumped nearly 50 percent from 2006 to 2007 as more troops served lengthy and repeated tours in Iraq and Afghanistan (2008). Furthermore, the US Army reported in May (2008) that more U.S. soldiers committed suicide in 2007 than at any time since the first Gulf War.

Funding History: The GPE Program received $2.0 million in FY 2002, $4.5 million in FY 2003 through FY 2005, and $1.8 million in FY 2006 through the current Continuing Resolution for FY 2009. In FY 2006, the funding reduction of over 50% forced the elimination of all the geropsychology training grants and cut funding for each of the remaining 20 grants by 44%. Currently there are 18 general grants.

Providing $7 million in FY 2010 would allow for 30 additional GPE grants including those that focus solely on the needs of older adults and returning military personnel and their families. There are approximately 900 eligible universities, professional schools and hospitals nationwide.