On Your Behalf
In Feb. 4 letters, APA urged President George W. Bush, CIA Director Michael Hayden and Attorney General Michael Mukasey to prohibit the 19 interrogation techniques APA condemns, as well as any others that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. APA's president and chief executive officer wrote that the association's members are prohibited from participating in such techniques and that testimony derived from the use of such techniques should be rejected. The letters also urged government leaders to establish policies and procedures that fully protect the human rights of detainees in all settings.
APA trained six Air Force psychology interns how to advocate for psychology on Jan. 31. The interns, along with three staff from Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, participated in the advocacy training workshop, which was hosted by APA's Education Government Relations Office. Participants learned about the importance of federal advocacy, the basics of lawmaking and the best way to deliver their message to congressional members and staff. The group also met informally with psychologists-turned-Capitol Hill staffers Jill Antonishak, PhD, of Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) office, and Purva Rawal, PhD, of Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) office, to learn about the role constituents can play in the legislative process.
Thanks in part to advocacy by APA and APA Practice Organization members, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act (HR 3992) in late January. This legislation - psychology priority for years - seeks to improve the criminal justice system's interactions with those who have a mental illness. The legislation increases from $25 million to $75 million the annual funds authorized for planning and implementing collaborative efforts between criminal justice and mental health systems. The bill would also require a study on the prevalence of mental illness among prison and jail populations. The Senate is expected to act on the legislation this spring.
In a letter to U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pete Sessions (D-Texas), the APA Public Interest Government Relations Office expressed its support for HR 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, which allows parents to be reimbursed for the costs of expert witness testimony, tests or evaluations that might be needed in determining whether a child can receive disability-based services. Without this reimbursement, many parents do not have the financial resources to advocate for their children's educational rights. APA strongly supports this protection of equitable access to education for children with disabilities.
APA sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates requesting that the government prohibit sexual orientation disclosures in psychotherapy from being used as a basis for administrative discharge for homosexuality. APA has also prepared a briefing sheet on "Sexual Orientation and Military Service," which explains APA's opposition to the current U.S. policy of discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people in military service.
APA has urged the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to include basic behavioral research in its new strategic plan, which will guide the institute over the next three to five years. In its draft plan, NIMH spelled out four strategic objectives: to promote scientific discovery; chart mental health trajectories; develop new and better interventions; and strengthen public health impact. In response to NIMH's call for input, APA's Science Government Relations Office submitted comments that reflected the views of a wide range of APA members and governance groups. A common theme that emerged from members' input was the absence of behavioral research among the plan's objectives. In a letter to NIMH, APA urged the institute not to exclude basic behavioral research "just as it does not exclude studies of normal brain function that are conducted solely at the neural level." The full letter is available online.
To raise awareness of the critical research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), APA's Science Government Relations Office hosted the inaugural meeting of the Friends of NIAAA on Jan. 31. Members of the group - which include APA, the American Psychiatric Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences and many others - discussed ways to enhance the visibility of NIAAA's work with the eventual goal of improving treatment and prevention efforts. During the meeting, NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, MD, briefed the group on the institute's research priorities, which include teasing apart the genetic and environmental causes of alcoholism. About 8.5 percent of Americans have a drinking problem, costing our society $185 billion annually.