Policy Update--May 2009

Family Caregiver Law Funded After Years of Strong Advocacy

Following several years of independent and collaborative advocacy as a member of the National Respite Coalition, PI-GRO successfully secured $2.5 million for the Lifespan Respite Care Act (P.L. 109-442) in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill. This new law authorizes development of lifespan respite programs at the state and local levels; planned and emergency respite for family caregivers of children and adults; training and recruitment of respite workers and volunteers; assistance for caregivers in gaining access to services; and establishment of a National Resource Center on Lifespan Respite Care. PI-GRO continues to work with congressional sponsors and coalition members to ensure appropriate implementation of this important initiative.

House Passes Postpartum Depression Bill

On March 30, the House overwhelmingly passed the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act (H.R. 20), which would increase research, education, and services for those suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis.  H.R. 20 is now ready to be considered by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  As part of PI-GRO’s leading advocacy efforts on this critical legislation, our office organized a sign-on letter of almost 20 organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Organization of Women, urging for passage of this important legislation.

Legislation Aims to Prevent Bullying and Gang Activity in Schools

On March 18, Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-CA) introduced the Bullying and Gang Reduction for Improved Education Act of 2009, H.R. 1589, a bill that would allow funds under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program at the Department of Education to be used for bullying and gang prevention efforts, as well as the implementation of threat assessment protocols.  This legislation represents a longstanding priority for APA and utilizes the supporting evidence found in the APA Resolution on Bullying among Children and Youth. PI-GRO staff worked closely with the office of Rep. Sánchez to ensure that the bill as reintroduced specifically included psychologists in program language, aligned with terms of art and current research, allowed for a variety of programs to be used in schools, and included transgender youth where lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are mentioned. PI-GRO staff also secured the inclusion of threat assessment protocols and language that reflects research indicating higher levels of bullying victimization among youth with disabilities, those who are overweight or obese, and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Senate Includes Mental Health in Juvenile Justice Legislation

Introduced on March 24, S. 678, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2009, includes several recommendations offered by PI-GRO to address the overwhelming prevalence of needs related to disability, mental health, and substance abuse among the juvenile justice population.  Among these provisions, the legislation would add the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to the Federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; add mental health experts to each State’s Advisory Group, which set policy on juvenile justice; and direct the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to perform a study on the prevalence of disability and of various types of disability among the juvenile justice population.  PI-GRO continues to work with other mental health and disability groups, the Act 4 Juvenile Justice coalition, and Senate and House staff to pursue stronger protections for those in the juvenile justice system with needs related to disability, mental health, or substance abuse.

Improvements Gained in Geriatric Health Workforce Bill

PI-GRO and Education GRO worked successfully with Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to enhance the Geriatrics Loan Forgiveness Act of 2009, H.R. 1457, prior to its introduction on March 12.  This legislation would allow participants to include their time in an accredited geriatric education program toward the two-year minimum obligation to qualify for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program. This loan repayment program provides up to $25,000 annually to repay student loans in exchange for service in a Health Professional Shortage Area.  PI-GRO and Education GRO are now working in collaboration with a broad coalition of health and aging organizations in support of this important legislation.

Legislation Reintroduced to Combat Hate Crime

As a member of the National Hate Crime Coalition, PI-GRO worked with Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and dozens of other congressional leaders who reintroduced the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913)on April 2. This legislation would expand federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability of any person and provide assistance to local jurisdictions in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. PI-GRO is currently participating in a month-long coalition letter writing campaign to the House of Representatives focused on increasing support for this longstanding APA policy priority.

APA Supports Immigration Sponsorship for Members of Same-Sex Partnerships

PI-GRO recently wrote to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in support of S. 424 and H.R. 1024, the Uniting American Families Act of 2009.  This legislation would make an important contribution to the well-being of same-sex couples and their families by extending the definition of persons eligible for family-based immigration sponsorship to “permanent partner”, in addition to other-sex “spouses”.  PI-GRO will continue to work on this issue to ensure passage of this critical legislation.

Health Care Reform

Early this year, APA released association-wide policy recommendations on Health Care Reform, and PI-GRO took the lead in developing informational materials on integrated health care; disease prevention, health promotion, and wellness; and racial and ethnic mental health and mental health care disparities.  PI-GRO also worked closely with the Education GRO in developing materials related to health professions training and education.