APA Members Address President Bush's Mental Health Commission

Two APA members presented at the July 19 meeting of the recently established President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. The commission is charged with studying the nation's mental health system and advising the President on ways to improve the system. It was created as part of the President's comprehensive New Freedom Initiative to achieve full community participation for Americans with disabilities. The final report of the commission, expected next April, will constitute the first comprehensive study of the nation's public and private mental health service delivery system in 25 years — since the Carter administration report was issued in 1978.

In the letter of invitation to testify, commission chair Michael Hogan, Ph.D., expressed interest in hearing about APA's perspective on: the mission of the commission; the nature and extent of unmet mental health needs; barriers to services; innovative treatment, services, and technologies; and policy options that encourage the use of effective treatments and services, enhance coordination among service providers, and improve the ability of adults and children with mental disorders to become integrated into the community. In testimony presented on behalf of APA, Diane Marsh, Ph.D., chair of APA's Task Force on Serious Mental Illness and Serious Emotional Disturbance, remarked that there is "much cause for optimism in the availability of a wide range of effective and innovative treatments and services. The challenge is to ensure that these interventions reach all those who need them, and to deliver those services in a manner that promotes health, resilience and self-determination."

Speaking on another invited panel as an independent expert, psychologist Robert Friedman, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of South Florida, presented his perspective on the state of children's mental health and his vision for an improved system. (His PowerPoint presentation can be accessed through the link to the commission Web site provided below.)

APA's Practice Organization and Public Policy Office were instrumental in conveying to the Administration the importance of including psychologists on the commission. The 15-member commission includes three APA members appointed by President Bush. These psychologists are: Deanna F. Yates, Ph.D., a private practitioner in San Antonio, Texas, specializing in the treatment of traumatic stress and other psychological disorders affecting children; Larke Nahme Huang, Ph.D., Director of Research at the Center for Child Health and Mental Health Policy and Senior Policy Associate at the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health, both at Georgetown University's Child Development Center; and Stephen Wright Mayberg, Ph.D., Director of the California Department of Mental Health and a private practitioner.

Additional information about the commission, including the President's Executive Order creating the commission and brief biographies of the commissioners, is available on its website. The website also includes a Public Comment Section to solicit input from stakeholders in the mental health community.