On Your Behalf
As a member of the Coalition to End the Two-Year Wait for Medicare, APA is among the organizations urging the next Congress to eliminate the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage faced by people with disabilities. At a Nov. 12 event at the U.S. Capitol, APA member Neal Morris, EdD, told lawmakers about the psychological and human cost of the waiting period, as well as the significant benefits of early health-care intervention. An estimated 1.5 million Americans are in the 24-month waiting period, one in five of whom has a mental disorder. Legislation to phase out the period over 10 years has been introduced in the House and Senate. At Monitor press time, the Senate version of the legislation had been co-sponsored by 23 senators, including President-elect Barack Obama before he resigned his Senate seat. The House version had 103 co-sponsors.
APA co-hosted a briefing Nov. 20 on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1989 and instituted as international law in 1990 with the specific purpose of ensuring the well-being of all children, regardless of national boundaries. But despite the recognition that good physical and mental health sets the foundation for children's overall growth and development, many children still lack access to quality health-care services. At the briefing, Harold Cook, PhD, an APA representative to the United Nations, highlighted a number of critical issues, including violence against children, children with disabilities and juvenile justice. "The CRC offers a unique opportunity to effectively address the root concerns that impact the lives of children," said Cook. "APA members support this proactive approach to increase public knowledge and encourage government efforts to not only prevent negative outcomes for children but to actively seek out opportunities to improve children's physical and mental health, learning and cognition, and general happiness." The briefing was also hosted by the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child Welfare League of America and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
APA hosted the second in a series of Capitol Hill briefings on behalf of the Friends of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The Oct. 8 briefing, "Alcoholism Isn't What It Used to Be: New Findings Foreshadow Shifts in Treatment Strategies," discussed promising behavioral research that may lead to new treatment approaches. It also explored how psychological and pharmacological treatments might be better tailored to meet the needs of patients who abuse alcohol. "Research into the causes and the cures of [these disorders] offers the best hope for effective interventions, treatments and policies," APA Fellow and Friends of NIAAA Coalition Chair Carlo DiClemente, PhD, told a standing-room-only crowd of attendees. The briefing was co-sponsored by 20 scientific societies and patient advocacy groups.
An APA member is at the forefront of juvenile justice reform. On Oct. 15, a slate of panelists, including researchers, policy advisers and advocates, discussed the need to reform the juvenile justice system. APA Fellow Laurence Steinberg, PhD, of Temple University, gave an overview of the issue, focusing on the social science research that shows adolescents lack the emotional and mental maturity of adults and should therefore not be treated as adults in the system. Steinberg acknowledged that the justice system has been shifting away from the "get tough" policies of yore and that legislators are pursuing more moderate policies as they see the ineffectiveness and high economic costs of punitive approaches. Nonetheless, Steinberg said, there's still much work to be done to ensure that policymakers are aware of the research and use it to inform their decisions.
APA has long pushed for increased funding for NASA, home to a wealth of aviation safety and human factors research. Good news: President Bush signed a law in November that authorizes $20.2 billion for NASA, about $2.6 billion over the president's FY 2009 budget request. The amount includes $853.4 million for NASA's aeronautics program. The authorization is just the first step in the funding allocation process. At press time, both House and Senate appropriations committees were to consider whether NASA should receive funds and if so, how much.
GIVE AN HOUR
In honor of Veterans Day, four major mental health associations—APA, the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers and American Association of Pastoral Counselors—announced their support Nov. 10 of the Give an Hour program. Launched by APA member Barbara V. Romberg, PhD, Give an Hour asks mental health professionals nationwide to give an hour of their time each week to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families.
Since 2001, the United States has deployed more than 1.6 million troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of Oct. 27, 4,809 American troops had died and 33,305 had been injured. In addition, an estimated 18 percent of troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression, and 19 percent have reported they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury. Meanwhile, untold numbers of spouses, partners, children and other family members of military personnel are coping with the strain of loved ones serving in the wars.
"This partnership with Give an Hour is a natural next step for APA and our public education efforts to help Americans, especially those affected by war," APA's Randy Phelps, PhD, said at the event. "We are very proud of our colleague, Dr. Romberg, for her vision and hard work, as well as endless devotion and compassion for such an important cause."
To find out how you can participate in Give an Hour, visit www.giveanhour.org.