Higher Education: George Mason University Counseling Center Director, Jeffrey Pollard, PhD, ABPP Testifies on Capitol Hill

On May 19th, 2009, Dr. Jeff Pollard, Director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at George Mason University, testified before the House Veteran’s Affairs Health Subcommittee at a hearing entitled, “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Care: The Crown Jewel and Best Kept Secret.”

Speaking on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), Dr. Pollard talked about George Mason’s mental and behavioral health outreach efforts to veterans currently on campus, as well as their planned efforts in anticipation of a growing veteran population at GMU. Dr. Pollard was accompanied by Mike Johnson who serves as GMU’s new Military and Veteran’s Liaison.

Dr. Pollard made three important recommendations to the Subcommittee, which are intended to ensure that service members and veterans receive the mental and behavioral health care they need and have earned. These include: making resources available for targeted efforts on campus to address mental and behavioral health risks, including the risk of suicide; providing training to mental and behavioral health professionals on campus regarding the unique deployment, reintegration and readjustment issues facing service members, veterans and their families; and developing mechanisms to conduct appropriate outreach to service members and veterans who are beginning their post-secondary education on-line while deployed or upon their return from service.

Dr. Pollard also spoke enthusiastically of the Campus Suicide Prevention program, administered by SAMHSA and new legislation, the “Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act” introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Durbin and Collins and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jan Schakowsky. The Campus Suicide Prevention program has funded education and outreach activities on campuses throughout the country designed to raise awareness about mental and behavioral health problems that can lead to suicide. The “Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act” would complement that program by allowing funds to be used to provide services to students, and to hire appropriately trained staff and expand training programs through internship, post-doctoral and residency programs. The “Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act” would also establish a College Campus Task Force, which includes representatives from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to discuss mental and behavioral health concerns on college and university campuses.

In terms of continuing education and training opportunities for college and university mental and behavioral health professionals, Dr. Pollard highlighted the work being done by the Department of Defense’s Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) which is now incorporated into the newly established Department of Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. The CDP is the military arm for training psychologists, psychology interns/residents, and other health professionals from the Army, Navy, and Air Force as well as civilian professionals to provide high quality deployment-related behavioral health services to military personnel and their families. The APA Education Government Relations Office was instrumental in the establishment of the CDP Program in 2004.Dr. Pollard recently attended a week-long training session at the Center in which leading experts in the field provided critical training regarding the deployment cycle, trauma and resilience, behavioral health care for the severely injured and the impact of deployment on families.

Dr. Pollard’s testimony before the House Veteran’s Affairs Health Subcommittee was supported by the APA Public Interest Government Relations Office (GRO) in partnership with the APA Education GRO.