Advancing psychology in the midst of difficult appropriations battles

APA worked to protect Graduate Psychology Education and campus suicide prevention, educated Congress about psychology

Graduate Psychology Education program maintains funding thanks to strong support generated by year-long effort

Fortunately, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor–HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee recommended level funding for the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 appropriations cycle. Funded at nearly $3 million, the full Senate Appropriations Committee supported the subcommittee’s recommended level. In addition to including funding for the GPE Program, the Senate subcommittee included very strong language directing the agency to reinstate the geropsychology component, initiate a focus on veterans, and help integrate health service psychology trainees at Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide mental and behavioral health services to underserved populations. This language was adopted at the request of Sen. Jack Reed (DRI), who strongly advocated for GPE funding as well.

ELC particpants from florida's 11th District meet with Rep. Kathy Castor during their visit to Capitol HillIn addition, there was also good news from the House Labor–HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, which recommended $2.97 million for the GPE Program, the same amount recommended by the Senate subcommittee and full committee. This makes it more likely that the GPE will maintain funding this upcoming fiscal year, a victory in the face of drastic budget cutting and program eliminations. For context, funding for Interdisciplinary Community Linkages was frozen in the Senate subcommittee mark ($71.5 million) and cut by $37.9 million (recommended for $33.9 million) in the House subcommittee mark. This is the pot that provides funding for the GPE.

Strong bipartisan support for protecting the GPE Program is due in large part to the over 70 visits made by 30 APA member-advocates who came to Washington, DC, in the spring and early summer to meet with key members and staff of the House and Senate Labor-HHS subcommittees. Led by the APA Education Government Relations Office (Education GRO), this foundational support was bolstered by over 175 visits made by PsycAdvocates during the APA convention in Washington, DC, as well as the178 visits made by grassroots leaders, seasoned advocates, and novice Hill visitors during the annual fall ELC.

Still, even with this good news, we remain mindful that the FY 2012 cycle is not yet completed. The Education GRO website will continue to provide updates on the progress of this legislation in general and the funding for GPE specifically.

Campus Suicide Prevention Program recommended for funding increase

Thanks in large measure to the work of Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the Campus Suicide Prevention Program received nearly $5 million in funds from the Senate Labor–HHS Appropriations Subcommittee. In addition, the program is slated to receive another $10 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. These competitive funds, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, are available to centers on college campuses that provide mental and behavioral health services to students. The program, along with the State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Program and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, are authorized by the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA).

Although the subcommittee has produced a bill, the specific funding levels for the Campus Suicide Prevention Program are not yet available. The other programs authorized by the GLSMA received level funding in the Senate bill: $29.738 million for the State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative and $4.96 million for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

In related news, Sen. Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), along with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), introduced a strong reauthorization bill for the GLSMA programs (S. 740), championing both the authority and the funding for the programs, especially the Campus Suicide Prevention Program. There are currently 13 cosponsors for that legislation. APA’s Education GRO has an action alert posted on the website requesting that APA members call their senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 740.

Education GRO staff will continue to keep you updated on both the status of appropriations for the Campus Suicide Prevention Program and the progress on S. 740 during the weeks ahead.

Annual Education Advocacy Breakfast meeting

Held every year during the APA convention, the Education Advocacy Breakfast meeting enables APA members as well as governance and grassroots leaders to learn first-hand about current APA legislative initiatives and advocacy activities of importance to the psychology education and training community. This year two individuals were invited to make presentations: Brent Jaquet, senior vice president and appropriations consultant from the lobbying firm CRD Associates in Washington, DC; and Kate Mevis, legislative aide to Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI).

Jaquet opened the program by applauding psychology’s grassroots efforts to raise awareness of the critical need to provide mental and behavioral health care to underserved populations. Jaquet then provided a behind-the-scenes look at the debt-ceiling agreement, which had just passed, and its implications for discretionary program funding, especially the GPE and GLSMA Campus Suicide Prevention programs. He stated that “everything is on the table” and noted that many programs are likely to be reduced or even eliminated. Jaquet concluded his remarks by urging psychologists to stay involved and keep their members of Congress informed about the critical need to protect these programs.

Mevis began her remarks by thanking APA and the psychology community for their support in the reauthorization of the GLSMA. She noted that she has worked closely with APA’s Education GRO staff on the legislation, which funds the Campus Suicide Prevention Program. Following on Jaquet’s comments and the budget-deficit discussion, Mevis noted that the current contentious climate on Capitol Hill may, in fact, impede GLSMA reauthorization. However, she pointed out that GLSMA has had bipartisan support from its inception and that members of Congress do understand the critical need for youth suicide prevention. Nonetheless, she still urged psychologists to stay in touch with their legislators and continue their grassroots efforts, which do make a difference.

2011 PsycAdvocate Day

This year’s APA convention in Washington, DC, provided an opportunity for over 100 psychologists and psychology graduate students to learn about the value of advocacy and participate in a uniquely Washington experience: visiting members of Congress and/or their staff on Capitol Hill. A collaboration between the Education and Public Interest GRO, in conjunction with the APA Continuing Education Program, this first-ever PsycAdvocate Day workshop began with a review of the federal legislative process, a substantive discussion of current appropriations issues of interest to psychology, including FY 2012 funding for the GPE Program and Minority Fellowship Program, and a series of interactive exercises designed to prepare the novice advocates for their afternoon congressional meetings on Capitol Hill. The success of the fullday training workshop and Hill visits was evidenced by the many positive comments from returning PsycAdvocate participants, who met with 110 members in U.S. Senate and House of Representatives offices.