Government Relations Update
APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) is committed to working with APA committees, divisions and members to advocate for disability-related policies and programs throughout government. Some of their recent efforts are explained below.
With the support of APA member Elizabeth Doll, PhD, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, PI-GRO staff prepared and submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services expressing APA's concerns about the center's proposed regulations to eliminate reimbursement for school administration costs related to transporting children with disabilities between home and school. The change would have been detrimental for psychologists because many school districts reinvest these funds into school-based mental health programs.
Workforce and training
In 2005, changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program no longer allowed states to receive credit toward the work participation rates for people with certain modified employability plans. This would include accommodations for family members with disabilities, the provision of rehabilitative services or supportive services for substance abuse and mental and behavioral health.
PI-GRO staff have been engaged in advocacy efforts in support of the Pathways to Independence Act (S. 1730). If passed, the legislation would allow states to more effectively and creatively serve families that include a person with a disability who requires substance abuse or mental health services to better prepare them for a successful transition to work.
PI-GRO is working closely with members of Congress and the Bush administration to garner support for the Americans with Disabilities Restoration Act of 2007, which seeks to help people routinely dismissed as "not disabled enough." The act would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act by clarifying the definition of "disability" to ensure that people with certain health conditions-such as epilepsy, diabetes, psychiatric diagnoses and other mental health conditions-would be covered.
PI-GRO submitted testimony for a U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on this issue, expressing APA's commitment to end such discrimination. In addition, the PI-GRO staff presented at an event with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), other members of Congress, and disability community leaders to commemorate "The Road To Freedom: Keeping the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act" before a Senate hearing on the legislation.
PI-GRO staff provided written and oral testimony to the Interagency Committee on Disability Research on specific ways to improve future research for individuals with disabilities. Working with APA members William M. Stiers, PhD, president of Div. 22 (Rehabilitation) and Nora Baladerian, PhD, APA recommended that more research be conducted on:
Stigma in employment, addressing societal barriers to employment such as stigmatization and discrimination, against people with physical, mental and neurological disabilities.
Substance abuse, looking at treatment for co-morbid physical, psychological and neuropsychological disabilities and substance abuse, including early detection, prevention and access to care.
Minority status, exploring disability in the context of personal, social and cultural characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and age.
Health and wellness interventions, investigating the public health implications and the need to develop policies and interventions to prevent or reduce risk factors associated with obesity among people with disabilities.
Maltreatment of children with disabilities, to identify risk factors (including anger, depression and stress) that may lead to abuse and neglect as children with disabilities are a distinct high-risk group for abuse and neglect, and determine the support service needs of children with disabilities and their families.
APA will continue to advocate for integrated comprehensive policies that address the needs of individuals with disabilities. We invite all APA members to participate in this vital process. APA needs its members' experience and expertise in all areas of psychology to help ensure that disability as a policy issue is effectively integrated into APA's advocacy strategies.
Day Al-Mohamed, JD, is the senior officer for legislative and federal affairs in APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office.