Also in this Issue
APA Advocates for Postpartum Depression Bill
Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a package of bills on Monday that would authorize a range of health and judiciary programs, including postpartum research and services. The Melanie Blocker-Stokes MOTHERS Act would authorize $3,000,000 for expanded research on postpartum conditions, and increased services and education for women who suffer from postpartum depression.
SGRO staffer, Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman, along with Public Interest GRO staffer, Krysta Jones, actively lobbied Congress in support of the MOTHERS Act. Anticipating Republican opposition to the bill, Elizabeth and Krysta met with the staff of Sens. Mike Enzi (WY), Lamar Alexander (TN) and Johnny Isakson (GA). All three Senators serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill. The bill was a stand-alone measure until recently when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) rolled 35 bills, including the MOTHERS Act, into what many considered a “must pass” omnibus package, S. 3297, titled, “The Advancing America’s Priorities Act.” Sen. Reid hoped the package would move to an up or down vote Monday afternoon. As it happened, Monday’s vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to move the bill to final passage. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn who placed an informal hold on the bill, and urged his colleagues not to support it on the grounds that it was too expensive and would take debate time away from energy legislation, led the opposition to S.3297. To see how your Senators voted, visit the Govtrack website. The MOTHERS Act was first introduced in the 107th Congress by Rep. Bobby Rush (IL).
Juvenile Justice Bill Gets Through Committee
As previously reported in SPIN, in March the Science and Public Interest Government Relations Offices submitted a set of recommendations for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) reauthorization, many of which were included in the final legislation. However, the main Science recommendation on strengthening the peer review process was not incorporated, despite additional requests to the Committee (via letter) to support adding the language at the markup.
The Committee passed the JJDPA by voice vote on July 31, without considering an amendment on strengthening peer review.
The mental health community was pleased that the Committee adopted, by 18-1, an amendment aimed at requiring states to conduct mental health screenings of juvenile offenders within 24 hours of their entry into the system, and to ensure those diagnosed with problems are provided with treatment. Also noteworthy is the fact that authorized funding for prevention programs such as mentoring and aftercare would be increased, and states would be able to use their grants for mental health and substance abuse training and treatment.
However, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is threatening to block the bill from receiving a full Senate vote unless hearings are held to evaluate the process by which states receive grants under the law.
Hot off the Press: The National Institute of Mental Health Releases Strategic Plan
NIMH presented the final version of its Strategic Plan on July 29. To view the Plan, visit the NIH website. Stay tuned for comments and analysis from SGRO.
Friends of NIAAA Meet in Conjunction with Research Society on Alcoholism
On Monday, June 30, Science Government Relations staff organized an informal gathering of the Friends of NIAAA coalition as a satellite of the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA). Dr. Ray Anton, President of RSA, was kind enough to coordinate time and space for the meeting to discuss possible future directions for the group. Following introductions, Geoff Mumford, Assistant Executive Director for Science, provided an update from the first Friends of NIAAA meeting held at APA HQ in January. Among the concrete steps, Dr. Anton was able to recruit APA Fellow and former Division 50 President, Dr. Carlo DiClemente, to Chair the group, and Geoff Mumford agreed to host regular meetings at APA HQ (on a schedule to be determined). In addition, Tom Donaldson, President of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, agreed to coordinate the submission of appropriations testimony and report language for the group in support of NIAAA. Geoff Mumford also announced plans for the next educational briefing to be held on Capitol Hill on October 8. The general topic of the briefing will be NIAAA’s revised treatment guidelines and will be held in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 354, from 12:00-2:00. Stay tuned to future editions of SPIN for details on this and other Friends of NIAAA activities. For more information, please contact Anne Bettesworth.
Friends of NIDA Holds Annual Meeting at APA HQ
On July 30, Science Government Relations staff hosted the annual all-member meeting of the Friends of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Coalition at APA Headquarters in Washington, DC. The meeting was well-attended with thirty-two organizations present and had a celebratory feel following, as it did, a highly successful Capitol Hill briefing on the progress of NIDA-supported vaccine research just the day before. Prior to the start of the actual meeting, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA, provided a briefing on NIDA research priorities. Friends of NIDA Chair, Dr. Bill Dewey, provided an update on the programmatic progress of the coalition, including legislative initiatives, coalition restructuring and fund-raising efforts. For more information, or to get involved, please contact Anne Bettesworth.
Vaccine Development Discussed at Friends of NIDA Briefing
The Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) hosted its eleventh congressional briefing on July 29. The educational event was held in conjuncture with the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, sponsored by 22 scientific and professional organizations and coordinated by Science Government Relations Office (SGRO) staff. “Developing New Tools to Prevent and Treat Addiction: Vaccine Development on the Horizon,” was a smash hit, drawing a crowd of 125, at least half of whom were congressional staff representing over 52 House and Senate Member offices.
The expert panel outlined the growing body of research on vaccines used as an addiction treatment and prevention tool. This innovative approach has the potential to profoundly impact the public’s health, as drugs of abuse have powerful influences over behavior through their actions on the brain, particularly in those circuits involved in reward and motivation. Immunization is a strategy that seems ideally suited to address this problem. NIDA has embraced the concept and is guiding, in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, an important vaccine development effort.
Nora Volkow, MD, Director of NIDA, opened the briefing with an overview of the Institute’s research portfolio as it relates to medications development and vaccine treatments for addiction. Psychologist Michael Owens, PhD, Professor and Director of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse and a Wilbur Mills Endowed Chair in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, then discussed developing research on antibody-based medications for use in treating methamphetamine addiction. Next, Thomas Kosten, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine and Research Director of the VA National Substance Use Disorders Quality Enhancement Research Initiative, shared his results from clinical trials with potential vaccines for treating cocaine addiction. And finally, APA Fellow, Dorothy Hatsukami, PhD, Professor in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Minnesota and Director of the Tobacco Research Program and Associate Director of the Masonic Cancer Center, discussed her studies of vaccine development for the treatment of nicotine dependence.
The incredible attendance and depth of questions from the audience during the panel discussion following the presentations demonstrated a strong interest in the topic.
For more information on the Friends of NIDA, please send an email to Anne Bettesworth.
APA Member Testifies before Senate Homeland Security Committee
On July 10, APA member Fathali Massoud-Moghaddam, PhD, Professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in a hearing entitled “The Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter It.” In Chairman Lieberman’s opening remarks, he noted that it was the “…seventh in a series of hearings this Committee has held to examine the threat posed by violent Islamist extremism and the steps we must take to identify, isolate and ultimately eliminate this threat and the ideology that supports it.” It was the first hearing on the subject held since the release of the Committee’s report, “Violent Islamist Extremism, The Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat.” An archived webcast, written opening statements, and Dr. Massoud-Moghaddam’s testimony (as well as that of the other witnesses) can be viewed by visiting the HSGAC website.
National Institute of Justice Conference Highlights Research
In mid-July, the National Institute of Justice held its annual three-day conference in Arlington, Virginia, which brought together criminal justice scholars, policymakers, and practitioners at the local, state and federal levels to share the most recent findings from research and technology. The conference showcased what works, what doesn't work and what the research shows as promising. It put a heavy emphasis on the benefits to researchers and practitioners who work together to create effective evidence-based policies and practices. Psychologists sat on panels covering various topics, such as the efficacy of protection orders in domestic abuse cases; neighborhood crime related to geographic location; and the effectiveness of sexual assault nurse examiners on prosecution rates.
Congressional Briefing on Women and STEM Careers
As Congress looks for ways to increase the American science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce, additional attention is also being paid to the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers. On July 16, the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues and the Congressional STEM Education Caucus partnered with APA and other organizations to sponsor a briefing to discuss how science can inform policies that seek to increase the role of women in STEM education and careers. Marcia Linn, Professor of Psychology at UC-Berkeley, presented her research on using technology to improve science education and how this would help to improve achievement not only for girls, but for all children. She also pointed out that as the achievement gap has been eliminated between boys and girls in math, there are likely other factors, such as balancing family responsibilities that create additional obstacles for women who want to maintain a career in research. Also on the panel was Col. Pamela Ann Melroy, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut who served as a pilot on two space shuttle flights and as mission commander on STS-120 Discovery in 2007. She shared her personal experience of pursuing a career in astrophysics and highlighted how her success was built on her supportive parents, professional mentors, personal ambition as well as organizations like NASA that have achieved a critical mass of women scientists. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, opened the briefing and was joined by Rep.Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Co-Chair of the STEM Education Caucus, who welcomed the speakers and reiterated their support for expanding opportunities for women and other young people to pursue science careers.
Most Federal Funding for Next Year Faces Rocky Path to Enactment
Students of civics (and scientists who have attended APA’s advocacy training workshops!) know that Congress is supposed to enact 13 appropriations bills, funding government activities from veterans’ health care to scientific research, by September 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year. Many different developments can throw that calendar askew. In an extraordinary year like this one, a presidential election year calling for early adjournment, a year in which one party has only the barest majority in the Senate, and a year in which the lame duck president and his policies have become increasingly unpopular, the calendar was tossed out the window months ago. Enactment of funding bills requires some cooperation between parties and between the Congress and President, and that is unlikely to be in plentiful supply.
The House Appropriations leadership has announced that two spending bills will likely come up for separate votes before the end of September: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Defense. The Defense bill will likely become the vehicle for a Continuing Resolution (CR), into which all the unfinished 2009 spending bills will be combined. Most other spending bills will have been approved by the Appropriations Committees in both Houses but not debated on the House or Senate floor. The CR will likely fund most nondefense programs at 2008 levels. It will be written to extend into next year, at which point Congress and the new President may agree to make changes or let it stand in order to deal with 2010 funding.
There is a possibility that Congress will enact a second economic stimulus package, which could boost funding for some agencies. U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have proposed boosting the NIH budget by $5 billion. The Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee included an increase of $1 billion for NIH in its version of the bill. But given the difficulties of enacting those increases in a CR, they may attempt instead to include an increase in NIH funding in stimulus legislation.
If a CR is enacted, does the language included in the House and Senate reports touting particular areas of research, or expressing concern about programs, still “count?” Agency staff normally take note of congressional report language, even if the bill to which it is attached is rolled into omnibus legislation. See details in “Psychological Research Highlighted in Appropriations Reports.”
APA's Capitol Hill Exhibit Showcases NSF-Funded Research
Each year APA’s Science Directorate co-sponsors the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) Capitol Hill Exhibit and Reception, an event that showcases the broad range of research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Our APA presenter at the June 2008 event was David Krantz, PhD, from Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. The center’s interdisciplinary team is undertaking a number of research projects in the United States and around the world, both in laboratory and real-world settings, to investigate how human decision-making (by individuals, small groups and organizations) is related to adaptation to climate-related uncertainty and mitigation of climate change. APA’s Science Government Relations staff coordinated the evening’s presentation, which provided an opportunity for Dr. Krantz to highlight NSF’s behavioral science portfolio and discuss his own team’s innovative research with Members of Congress, including Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Jim Moran (D-VA), and David Price (D-NC).
NSF and DoD Jointly Release Second Wave of Minerva Solicitations
On July 30, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Defense (DoD) released a joint solicitation entitled, "Social and Behavioral Dimensions of National Security, Conflict and Cooperation" (NSCC) as part of the Minerva initiative. A synopsis from the NSF website indicates that the initiative will focus on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy. NSF and DoD intend: 1) to develop the DoD’s social and human science intellectual capital in order to enhance its ability to address future challenges; 2) to enhance the DoD’s engagement with the social science community; and 3) to deepen the understanding of the social and behavioral dimensions of national security issues. Letters of Intent are due September 30, 2008 and Full Proposals are due October 30, 2008. Visit the NSF website for more information.