January 2009 Policy Update

Criminal justice

PI-GRO staff, in conjunction with other organizations, worked to inform the Presidential Transition Team in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice reform. APA contributed key elements regarding the role of prevention and early intervention within federal juvenile justice policy to a comprehensive transition document on criminal justice. Furthermore, PI-GRO staff has been working closely with the ACT 4 Juvenile Justice coalition to ensure that the upcoming reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act includes strong provisions on mental health and disability.

Health disparities

PI-GRO staff has been working with the Presidential Transition Team and key congressional members to secure the inclusion of mental and behavioral health provisions in health disparities legislation. PI-GRO has also been collaborating with the Office on Ethnic Minority Affairs to publish a special edition of the Communiqué journal that will focus on health disparities. This journal will be distributed to all congressional offices and a number of executive branch officials. PI-GRO staff is working to ensure that health disparities receives serious and proper attention during the health care reform discussions taking place in Congress.

Health professions training

PI-GRO, along with Education GRO, worked with the office of Senator Clinton (D-NY) during the crafting of the Health Professions and Primary Care Reinvestment Act, which would amend Title VII of the Public Health Service Act, the federal program that supports health professions education and training. This legislation includes a number of key initiatives of importance to psychology, including:

(1) authorizing language for the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program (including an authorized appropriation of $10 million);

(2) expansion of existing Geriatrics Education and Training initiatives to include graduate programs and professionals in behavioral and mental health;

(3) provisions that support the training of health professionals in interdisciplinary integrated models of care that address both physical and mental health; and

(4) provisions that give priority to education and training focused on meeting the health and social needs of potentially vulnerable and underserved populations.

The bill also includes critical provisions to recruit and retain health professionals from underrepresented minority groups and to improve cultural and linguistic competence in health professions education and training. The PI and Education GRO offices are now working with Senate and House sponsors to ensure reintroduction of this important legislation during this new Congress.

Pay equity

At the start of the 111th Congress, the House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which, together, would make key progress towards eliminating the gender wage gap. PI-GRO staff urged the House and the Senate to pass these critical pieces of legislation and take an important step forward in providing women and men access to equal economic resources. Specifically, these bills revise remedies for, and enforce prohibitions against, sex discrimination in the payment of wages and discriminatory practices in the workplace. Furthermore, they ensure that when discrimination does occur, wronged employees can receive fair compensation. The House passed both pieces of legislation on January 9, and the Senate passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on January 22. President Obama has signaled his support for both pieces of legislation.

State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

With Practice GRO, PI-GRO staff is working to incorporate the following in the reauthorization of SCHIP:

(1) include optional coverage for older children (up to age 25) under Medicaid and CHIP and adult day health service programs for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities under the Medicaid rehabilitation option;

(2) reconsider the citizenship requirement for Medicaid and SCHIP beneficiaries;

(3) encourage states to expand or improve outreach and enrollment, particularly for racial and ethnic minority populations, and to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services; and

(4) include costs incurred by AIDS drug assistance programs and the Indian Health Services in the calculation of true out-of-pocket costs (TrOOP).

On January 14, the full House overwhelmingly passed the reauthorization bill which included a provision which would give States the option to enroll documented immigrant children and pregnant women in federally-funded Medicaid and CHIP with no five-year waiting period. The Senate Finance Committee approved the measure on January 15.