On Your Behalf

  • APA is applauding President Barack Obama's executive orders to prohibit torture and other abusive interrogation techniques and to ensure that Guantanamo detainees are granted their right to judicial review. APA strongly believes that the United States must never violate detainees' human rights under U.S. or international law, as has occurred at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Per APA's longstanding policy, any direct or indirect participation by psychologists in any act of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is unethical and prohibited. Accordingly, APA commends the president's order to require all U.S. personnel to follow the Army Field Manual when interrogating detainees, which will have the effect of prohibiting waterboarding and other abusive techniques.

  • In a victory for the nation's children, on Feb. 4 President Obama signed into law an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, legislation that had been vetoed twice by President Bush despite broad congressional support. The APA Practice Organization has supported the bill since 2007, and the APA Public Interest Directorate has advocated for the inclusion of provisions to address the health and well-being of underserved populations, including immigrant children and families, individuals with disabilities, people with HIV/AIDS and ethnic minorities. The law expands the health program to 4 million more children and includes language that ensures parity for mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

  • At Monitor press time, the U.S. House of Representatives had approved the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act as part of the economic stimulus package, and the Senate was expected to take up the measure. The legislation includes medical records privacy and security protections that are stronger and far more comprehensive than those included in legislation Congress considered last year.The APA Practice Organization has consistently urged Congress to ensure that privacy and security standards are included as a cornerstone of any health information technology law. In addition, APA members have personally delivered this message to legislators through their visits to Capitol Hill during last year's State Leadership Conference. They've also sent thousands of e-mails to their congressional representatives through APAPO's Legislative Action Center. (For more information on the health information technology legislation, see "Practice Perspective".)

  • APA's advocacy, in concert with that of other groups, has also successfully secured additional funding for child-care and early-learning programs in the economic stimulus bill. The legislation includes $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which would provide child-care services for another 300,000 children in low-income families and $2.1 billion for Head Start to provide comprehensive development services to help 110,000 more children succeed in school.

  • APA has been continuing its outreach to the Obama administration, an effort that began just after Election Day. These activities have included:

Promoting the role of mental health in health-care reform. In January, APA's Ellen Garrison, PhD, was invited to meet with Elizabeth Engel of the Health Policy Working Group of then-President-elect Obama's transition team to address the role of mental health in overall health care reform. Garrison stressed the critical need to provide health care for the uninsured, while improving the overall health-care system and attending to the significance of behavioral factors in overall health. Her briefing gave voice to the vital contributions of the field of psychology, with its scientific knowledge base and professional applications, to the prevention and treatment of mental and physical disorders, as well as to the promotion of health and wellness. She also highlighted APA's eight key priorities for health-care reform, which reflect input from APA's Education, Practice, Public Interest and Science directorates. These priorities include the integration of mental and behavioral health into primary care and other health-care settings; inclusion of mental and behavioral health in prevention, wellness, and health promotion efforts; access to quality mental and behavioral health care and psychologists as providers in benefit plans for persons across the lifespan; expansion of the work force of psychologists and other mental and behavioral health providers; the elimination of mental health and mental health-care disparities; increased federal funding for basic through applied psychological research; strong privacy protections in health information technology; and enhanced involvement of psychologists and other health-care professionals with consumers, families and caregivers.

Underscoring the importance of behavioral science. As the largest member of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, APA contributed to a report that gives the Obama administration a broad overview of several issues of concern to the behavioral and social sciences. "As you prepare to take office," the report states, "almost all of the issues confronting your new administration will also involve application of research outcomes from the social, behavioral, and economic sciences. As Thomas Friedman has noted, the flattening of the world has allowed individuals to make decisions as to where to study, live and work. Understanding these individual decisions as well as their social and economic contexts should be paramount to any administration's science and public policy agenda." (The full report appears at www.cossa.org/TransitionDocument.pdf.)

Calling attention to disparities. In separate meetings with Obama's transition team, APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office discussed the need to eliminate health and health-care disparities, with special attention to mental and behavioral health. They also emphasized the need to more effectively coordinate the support and services for youth with disabilities.

Underscoring the importance of the National Science Foundation. In December, APA's Steve Breckler, PhD, and Heather Kelly, PhD, met with transition team members Henry Rivera and Michelle McMurray to stress the importance of championing the National Science Foundation's mission of supporting basic research and education in math, engineering and science, including the behavioral and social sciences. The APA duo also urged the new administration to honor the present executive and legislative branches' increased commitment to NSF's research budget and to ensure that this includes strong support for the behavioral and social sciences in order to address national challenges through a better understanding of human behavior.